2012. Vol.3, No.8, 562-568
Published Online August 2012 in SciRes (http://www.SciRP.org/journal/psych) http://dx.doi.org/10.4236/psych.2012.38084
Copyright © 2012 SciRes.
Coping among Students: Development and Validation of an
Emilie Boujut1, Marilou Bruchon-Schweitzer2, Stephan Dombrowski3
1University Paris Descartes, Paris, France
2University Bordeaux Segalen, Bordeaux, France
3Newcastle University, Newcastle, UK
Received February 10th, 2012; revised April 2nd, 2012; accepted June 3rd, 2012
Students are a very specific population as regards their manner to cope with stress. A coping question-
naire for students was developed and administered to 1100 French students at the beginning of the term
(T1). Principal Component Analysis of responses, followed by varimax rotations, yielded three factors
accounting for 50.5% of the total variance. Factors were identified as seeking social support, avoid-
ance/emotion-focused coping and festive-addictive coping. Associations were observed between scores
on these factors and a general coping scale (WCC-R), personal variables measured at the same time (T1),
neuroticism, self-esteem, substance use, and four stress factors, as well as variables measured at the end
of the term (T2), somatic symptoms, depressive symptoms, eating disorders, and life satisfaction. It would
be very interesting to develop the students’ personal competencies, so that they learn how to adopt func-
tional strategies of coping rather than the harmful kind.
Keywords: Coping; Students; Stress; Validation; Addictions; Health
The theory of “emerging adulthood” conceptualizes the de-
velopmental characteristics of people aged 18 to 25 (Arnett,
2000). Although previous research has contributed significantly
to our understanding of emerging adulthood (Erikson, 1968;
Keniston, 1971; Levinson, 1978), the key characteristics of this
life period have changed considerably since the 1970s, when
the theory was developed. Demographics such as age of marriage
and parenthood have profoundly shifted in industrialized socie-
ties; whereas before the 1970s, young adults entered marriage
and parenthood in their early 20s, these roles are now more
commonly entered into during the late 20s and early 30s.
Young adults often spend the period stretching from late teens
to mid-twenties experimenting in their love and work lives
(Arnett, 2005) and this might be particularly true for those who
choose to continue schooling at the college or university level.
Whereas emerging adulthood was previously considered to be
covered by other developmental stages, developmental psy-
chologists now consider this period to be well-defined and
unique stage, with young adults passing through both a devel-
opmental and an educational transition (Boujut, Bruchon-
Schweitzer, & Rascle, 2004). This paper thus focuses on some
of the problems that university students frequently face during
‘emerging adulthood’; how they perceive these problems at the
beginning of a term, and the effect of these variables on three
outcomes: somatic, mental health and health-related behaviors.
Students’ stress is considered to be a transactional process
between the new and stressful situation they have to face (e.g.
beginning the first year of university) and their personal and
social resources. These university students are considered to be
in the last period of transition before adult life (Towbes &
Cohen, 1996), and their psychological and physical discomfort
can manifest itself in various ways, including mood, sleep and
eating disorders. Although there has been little research proving
pathology, it appears that many students present discrete sub
symptomatic forms of discomfort that are seldom the subject of
consultation. In a recently conducted study, approximately 15%
of students indicated having had suicidal ideas, the second
leading cause of mortality (after road accidents) among indi-
viduals aged 18 - 24 years, and 30% presented depressive
symptomology during the previous 12 months (Lafay, Man-
zanera, Papet, Marcelli, & Senon, 2003). Other risk factors
include the consumption of psychoactive substances, which
tends to increase over time, with alcohol consumption consulta-
tions planned to become an integral part of medical visits to
first year students (Wauquiez, 2006).
Despite the reporting of many symptoms including somatic
(e.g. tiredness, headaches, backaches), psychological (e.g. de-
pression, suicidal tendencies), and behavioral disorders (e.g.
eating habits, addictive behaviors) among first year students,
very few studies have focused on students’ coping and health
(Boujut et al., 2004). Grebot and Barumandzadeh (2005) exam-
ined the perception of stress and the coping strategies that were
adopted by students during their first year and noted an increase
in the perception of stress (in terms of threat) between entry and
2 months, after which students would begin to more realisti-
cally understand the requirements of university. The students
would, at this time, adopt dysfunctional coping strategies, such
as drinking, smoking, or taking drugs. These authors suggested
that it would be beneficially to carry out research on the coping
strategies that are likely to develop anxiety-depressive disorders
or aggravate psychic stress at a later stage. Other research re-
ports have found that problem-centred coping, emotional cop-
ing, avoidance, and neglecting to seek social support, predicts
*The authors report no conflicts of interest.
E. BOUJUT ET AL.
less positive mental health in students (Dunkley, Zuroff, &
Blankstein, 2003; Hatchett & Park, 2004; Stewart et al., 1997).
Dunkley et al. (2003) report that the absence of active coping,
as well as the recourse to emotional coping and distraction,
increase the somatic symptoms of students.
In a longitudinal study of first years students, Halamandaris
and Power (1997b) evaluated the coping strategies most fre-
quently used during the first two weeks of entry, as well as the
issue of adaption at the end of the semester. The strategy of
seeking social support was predictive of good adaption. Voll-
rath (1998), in a study of the transactional model of addiction,
demonstrated that students who smoke use more dysfunctional
coping strategies (like denial, distraction, emotional coping and
addictive coping) than non-smokers. She explains that smokers
often use tobacco to regulate their negative emotions, rather
than using functional strategies like problem-centred coping or
seeking social support. This strategy tends to increase the
number of unresolved problems the students face, and thus their
stress. This phenomenon has also been demonstrated in other
populations of smokers (Wills, 1986; Wills & Shiffman, 1985).
Links between coping and eating disorders have been high-
lighted in previous research as well. Emotional coping and
problem-centred coping have been found to be correlated posi-
tively and negatively, respectively, with the intensity of com-
pulsive eating symptoms among 164 students (Janzen, Kelly, &
Saklofske, 1992). Similar results were found with regard to
emotional coping and avoidance coping among 150 students
(Janzen et al., 1992). Avoidance coping was also positively
correlated with avoiding food behaviors in a study of 49 stu-
dents (Mayhew & Edelmann, 1989). The results of comparative
studies (with a control group) are similar: avoidance coping ap-
pears more prominently among students who compulsively eat
than others (Paxton & Diggens, 1997). The same result was
found when comparing anorexic students with healthy students
(Mayhew & Edelmann, 1989). Finally, it has been shown that
students who are compulsive eaters use no more avoidance
coping strategies, or emotional coping strategies, than they use
problem-centred coping strategies (Mayhew & Edelmann, 1989).
In this paper, we consider coping in a population of students,
paying attention to the situational demands they encounter us-
ing the concepts of primary and secondary appraisal, as well as
coping strategies. We are particularly interested in two distinct
approaches to stressors: 1) how people react to normal situa-
tions of stress in terms of coping style; and 2) how people react
to specific situations in terms of coping status.
Since the 1980s, many coping questionnaires have been de-
veloped that have led to the discovery of various dimensions of
coping. The general consensus within the field is that there are
two meta-strategies of coping (Lazarus & Folkman, 1984): 1)
problem-focused coping (e.g. problem solving, conceptualising,
minimising effects); and 2) emotion-focused coping (e.g. emo-
tional responses, avoidance, guilt, emotional experience). Of
the 13 studies identified by Endler and Parker (1990) in their
critical evaluation of the multidimensional assessment of cop-
ing, 9 studies identified these two dimensions as being distinct
components of coping.
In studies of coping among student populations, most re-
searchers seem to use generic, validated, and widely used tools.
Unfortunately, a number of these tools such as the Coping
Strategies Questionnaire [CSQ (Roger, Jarvis, & Najarian,
1993)], the Coping Resource Inventory (Hammer, 1988), the
Cope questionnaire (Carver, Scheier, & Weinbtraub, 1989) and
the Coping Inventory for Stressful Situations [CISS (Endler &
Parker, 1999)] are used without clearly differentiating coping
traits in contrast to coping states. These scales, which ultimately
measure a coping style, approach coping as if it is a specific
and transient transactional process, but this is only true insofar
as one’s coping style is created in response to normal situations
of stress. In other words, the questionnaires may simplify cop-
ing to a construct rather than acknowledging the way in which
coping can vary in terms of style and state. Many misunder-
standings presently exist between these two aspects of coping
because they are not always clearly defined or distinguished.
With regard to the evaluation of coping in student populations,
a second concern is that the wording of items within question-
naires is not always adequately clear or catered for the target
population. However, there is at least one coping scale that has
been designed specifically for a student population (Allison,
Adlaf, & Mates, 1997). This coping scale includes 19 items,
and consists of five subscales: deviant coping (e.g. drinking
alcohol, smoking cigarettes or cannabis), passive coping (e.g.
sleeping, listening to music, eating, watching TV), destructive
coping (e.g. seeking affiliation to a gang), withdrawal/drain (e.g.
crying, not eating), and affirmative action (e.g. participating in
sports). Allison et al. (1997) note that the constellation of be-
haviours that characterise deviant coping and destructive cop-
ing are similar to the concept of problem behavior (as outlined
in the Theory of Social Deviance, cf. Jessor, Chase, & Dono-
van, 1980). Allison et al.’s questionnaire clearly highlights the
specific behaviors exhibited by young people to cope with
stress (noted above as examples of coping activities). The fac-
tors “deviant coping”, “destructive coping”, and “affirmative
action” seem particularly relevant for the current study as these
were shown to be unique for first year students, as compared to
other populations. These factors do not exist in general coping
scales: the Cope questionnaire is the one to evaluate substance
consumption as a coping strategy, but does so with only one
item. This scale needs to be validated in order to know the
psychometric properties involved and the implications of cop-
ing factors on issues like health and academic performance. The
unique personal and social background in which students en-
counter stress, and the need for questionnaires to be context
appropriate underscores the need for empirical studies to better
understand the responses and coping strategies of students.
The aim of the current study is to extend research in the area
of coping within the student population, by adapting relevant
measures to the French student population and by addressing
scale validity. We seek to understand the various coping stra-
tegies that are used by students to cope with stress, differentiat-
ing between coping style and state. Secondly, the aim of this
study is to explore links between coping and students’ health.
In order to achieve these aims, the number of subjects in the
validation population has to be at least 10-fold the number of
items being used, according to Kline’s criteria (Kline, 1993).
Kraener and Thiemann (1987) give Statistical Power Tables to
estimate the minimum sample size necessary given the number
of variables and the type of statistical calculation required.
An initial series of interviews was conducted with 40 first
Copyright © 2012 SciRes. 563
E. BOUJUT ET AL.
year university students (20 male and 20 female) in France. The
mean age of participants was 18.7 (SD = 1.3).
Subsequently, a questionnaire was administered to 1100 ad-
ditional students (400 male, 700 female), of which 556 contin-
ued to complete a follow-up questionnaire (153 male, and 373
female). Of the original sample, the mean age was 18.7 (SD =
1.3). There was a significant difference between participants
dropping out of the study and those completing in terms of
gender (Chi² = 18.5, p < .001), with completers more likely to
The decrease in the number of participants between T1 and
T2 seems to be partially accountable to the difficulty encoun-
tered when seeking to contact the original participants by tele-
phone, and also non-response by those who were provided the
opportunity to complete the T2 questionnaire by email or post.
One-on-one interviews were conducted with 40 French stu-
dents in order to inform the questionnaire-development process.
In- terviews were transcribed and data was analysed using the-
matic analysis leading to the development of 33 distinct response
cate- gories which subsequently informed the development of a
33 item coping questionnaire (the Students’ Coping Scale).
This questionnaire was administered to 1100 French students
at the beginning of the academic year (T1). At this time, the
students also completed questions to assess neuroticism, self-
esteem, general perceived stress and coping strategies.
Six months later (T2), the same students were invited to re-
spond to the follow-up questionnaire. This questionnaire was
conducted 2 - 3 weeks before exams and completed by 556
(50.5%) students whose data was analysed in this paper. There
is no difference in terms of sex and age between students lost
between T1 and T2 and others (Table 1).
Neuroticism, one of the factors of the Five Factors Model,
was evaluated by the Neuroticism scale of the NEO-PI-R
(Costa & Mc Crae, 1985), comprising of 48 items that have
been validated in France (Rolland, Parker, & Stumpf, 1998).
Self-esteem was assessed with the Rosenberg Self-Esteem
Scale (Rosenberg, 1969). This 10-item scale is the most widely
used scale within young adult and adolescent populations.
Substance use was assessed with the ASSIST (Alcohol,
Smoking and Substance Involvement Screening Test; WHO
ASSIST Working Group, 2002). Only items concerning alcohol,
tobacco and cannabis were used and specific scores were cal-
culated for each substance.
Comparison of demographics between study dropouts (T1) and com-
pleters (T1 + T2).
T1 only T1 +T2
N = 554 N = 556 F/Chi² P1
Gender 18.574 >.001
Men 61% 47%
Women 39% 53%
Age 18.8 ± 1.4 18.4 ± 1.1 14.206 >.001
Stress was evaluated with the Freshman Stress Questionnaire
(FSQ Boujut & Bruchon-Schweitzer, 2009), which measures
four factors based on 17 items: Academic Stress (e.g. academic
failure), University Dysfunctions (e.g. poor organization of
university), Feelings of Loneliness (e.g. anonymity of campus),
and Problems with Close Relations (e.g. sentimental problems).
Coping was also evaluated by the French adaptation of the
Ways of Coping Checklist-Revised (WCC-R; Vitaliano, Russo,
Carr, Maiuro, & Becker, 1985). The French version is a 27-item
scale that measures three coping factors: problem-focused cop-
ing, emotion-focused coping, and social support seeking (Bru-
chon-Schweitzer, Cousson, Quintard, Nuissier, & Rascle, 1996).
Physical Health was assessed using the subscale “somatisa-
tion” of the Psychosomatic Index of the Symptom Checklist 90
(Derogatis, 1994), which consists of 12 items.
Depression was assessed by the Beck Depression Inventory-
Short Form (Beck, Rial, & Rickles, 1974), which consists of 13
items assessing the perceived severity of some depressive
symptoms (affective, cognitive, vegetative) from 0 to 3. A score
of 5 or above is considered by many authors to be a cut-off that
differentiates clinically depressed subjects (Beck, Steer, &
We used the 4-item Subject Well-Being Scale (Diener, 1984;
Diener, Emmons, Larsen, & Griffin, 1985) in order to assess
the wellbeing of the students.
Eating Disorders were evaluated with the Eating Attitude
Test-26 (Garner & Garfinkel, 1979) which measures a global
score and three factors: restrictive behavior, bulimia and oral
control. This is one of the most widely used standardised
measures of symptoms and concerns that are characteristic of
eating disorders (Garner, Olmsted, Bohr, & Garfinkel, 1982).
All of the aforementioned scales (i.e. Neuroticism, Self-esteem,
Stress, Coping, Physical Health, Depression, Wellbeing, and
Eating Disorders) have satisfactory psychometric properties.
To explore the dimensionality of the stress questionnaire, a
Principal Component Analysis (PCA) was performed on the
answers of all T1 students (n = 1110). We then performed
Pearson product-moment correlations between the identified
stress factors and variables evaluated at T1 in order to assess
the concurrent validity of the stress factors. Finally, we used
multiple regressions between stress factors and variables evalu-
ated at T2 to establish the predictive validity of the stress ques-
tionnaire. All statistical analyses were performed with SPSS.
Conducting PCA analysis revealed a three-factor structure
(Table 2). The first factor was found to express the search for
social support, and is similar to a factor from the WCC-R (“I
seek help to overcome this problem”). We call Factor 1 seeking
social support. Factor 2, which we call avoidance/emotional
coping, consists of the individual using behavioral strategies to
cope with stress and to regulate their emotional reaction to
stress. In this regard, the individual who avoids emotion-fo-
cused coping may seek to recover a more positive emotional
state through behavioral activities (e.g. eating pleasant foods,
watching television). Factor 3 we call festive addictive coping,
and this kind of coping strategy includes any consumption of
Copyright © 2012 SciRes.
E. BOUJUT ET AL.
Copyright © 2012 SciRes. 565
Students’ coping scale (N = 1110).
Factor 1 Factor 2 Factor 3
% Variance explained 14.7% 14.4% 13.7%
Cronbach .75 .68 .60
6. Je parle de mes soucis à des proches (I talk to my relatives about my worries). .81
17. Je demande des conseils à d’autres personnes (I ask for advice from others). .75
27. Je demande de l’aide pour surmonter ce passage (I ask for help to overcome problems). .77
12. Je garde mes problèmes pour moi (I keep my problems to myself). –.62
5. Je mange plus que d’habitude (I eat more than usual). .68
10. Je mange des choses qui me font vraiment plaisir (I eat things that give me pleasure). .67
31. J’ai envie de pleurer (I want to cry). .58
7. Je regarde la TV (I watch TV). .49
25. Je n’arrive pas à penser à autre chose (I can’t think of anything else). .44
11. Je dors plus que d’habitude (I sleep more than usual). .43
26. Je ressens le besoin d’écrire (I feel the need to write). .42
19. Je bois avec des amis (I drink with friends). .78
4. Je sors, je m’amuse, je fais la fête (I go out, have fun, I celebrate). .75
20. Je fume un joint (I smoke a joint). .61
16. Je fume des cigarettes (I smoke cigarettes). .57
1. Je vois des amis pour me changer les idées (I see friends to help me change my focus). .56
psychoactive substances. Festive addictive coping can be repe-
titious and done within a seemingly celebratory environment
(e.g. “I drink with friends”). The percentages of explained
variance is satisfactory (14.7%, 14.4%, 13.7%). In contrast, for
the questionnaire, the alphas are questionable for Factors 2 and
3 (.75, .68, .60).
Product-moment correlations were calculated between spe-
cific coping scores on each factor used in the students’ coping
scale and the three general factors of the WCC-R (Table 3).
The specific and general factors of seeking social support were
correlated. In addition, we observed a significant relationship
between the “emotion-focused coping” of the general scale and
avoidance/emotional coping in the specific scale. There were
not significant relationships between festive addictive coping
and the three factors in the general scale.
Product-moment correlations were calculated between spe-
cific coping scores on each factor and the other variables meas-
ured at T1 in the 1100 students (see Table 4): SCS, Neuroti-
cism (NEO-PI), Self-esteem (Rosenberg’s Scale), and Fresh-
man Stress Questionnaire (FSQ). Only avoidance/emotion-
focused coping on the student’s coping scale was significantly
correlated with neuroticism (positively), self-esteem (nega-
tively), and the four freshman stress factors (positively). Only
Pearson product-moment correlations between student’s coping scale
and general coping factors at T1 (n = 1110).
Convergent validity (T1)
Problem-focused coping.15* –.08 .03
Emotion-focused coping–.11 .31*** –.11
Social-support seeking.66*** .07 .14*
Note: ***p < .001; **p < .01.
festive-addictive coping on the student’s coping scale was sig-
nificantly correlated with substance use (alcohol, tobacco, can-
Partial regression coefficients (β) were calculated between
the three students’ coping scale measured at T1 and relevant
outcomes measured at T2 (Table 5). Seeking social support at
T1 was negatively associated with depression and positively
with life satisfaction at T2. Avoidance/emotion-focused coping
at T1 was associated negatively with life satisfaction and posi-
tively with somatic symptoms, depression and eating disorders
at T2. Festive addictive coping was not significantly associated
with these outcomes.
E. BOUJUT ET AL.
Pearson product-moment correlations between student’s coping scale
and at T1 (n = 1110).
Concurrent validity (T1)
Neuroticism –.06 .45*** –.02
Self-esteem .09 –.22* .03
Tobacco use .05 .07 .58***
Alcohol use –.04 .07 .49***
Cannabis use –.02 .04 .51***
Academic stressors .09 .32*** –.07
University dysfunction –.03 .21* –.07
problems with close relations
Note: ***p < .001; **p < .01.
Multiple Regressions Analysis between the stress factors and criteria of
Emotional and Physical Adjustment evaluated at T2 (β) (n = 556).
Predictive validity (T2)
Somatic symptoms (SCL-90) .023 .263*** .056
State-Depression (BDI-SF) –.166*** .312*** –.005
Eating disorders (EAT-26) –.002 .196*** –.015
Life satisfaction (Diener Scale) .104* –.195*** .023
Having applied a newly developed students’ coping ques-
tionnaire to a French population, we found three factors to be of
relevance: seeking social support (e.g. “I talk about my worries
with relatives”), avoidance/emotion-focused coping (e.g. “I
want to cry”) and festive addictive coping (e.g. “I drink with
friends”). The percentages of explained variance and Cron-
bach’s alpha were satisfactory, but the coefficient of internal
consistency of the third factor was weak.
Two coping strategies that are highlighted here are compara-
ble to those that have been isolated from other populations:
seeking social support and emotion-focused coping (Folkman,
Lazarus, Dunkel-Schetter, DeLongis, & Gruen, 1986). We have
used two research instruments: a general questionnaire on cop-
ing (the WCC-R) and an original questionnaire on coping for
students: the students’ coping scale. The factors of emotion-
focused coping and seeking social support were common to
both questionnaires. Problem-focused coping only appeared in
the WCC-R and not in our specialised questionnaire, undoubt-
edly because the discussions that were carried out in order to
create items were held at the beginning of the school year and
not during examinations. Seeking social support was expressed
similarly in both questionnaires. Emotion-focused coping was
expressed differently in our questionnaire (eating more, sleep-
ing more, watching television, eating pleasant foods) and the
WCC-R (hoping a miracle would happen, trying to forget the
whole thing, blaming myself, etc.). The kinds of avoidance/
emotion-focused coping strategies that we used were ca- tered
to the population in consideration. A similar approach was
taken to festive-addictive coping, where we chose to express
this strategy with strategies that are relevant to our target popu-
lation: partying, drinking with friends, smoking joints, smoking
The development and validation of specific coping question-
naires for students can help us to more precisely study the fac-
tors determining the populations’ coping from various adaptive
or dysfunctional approaches (Vollrath, 1998). The strategies
that have been discussed here uncover many significant effects
on various issues, particularly dysfunctional effects as regards
the avoidance/emotion-focused coping strategies. In our study,
as in previous research, adopting emotion-focused coping (as in
the WCC-R) predicted more depressive and somatic symptoms,
eating disorders and less life satisfaction at the end of the year
(Janzen et al., 1992). As in previous studies, the search for so-
cial support is a coping strategy that decreases state-depression
and increases life satisfaction. It is probably the case that hav-
ing friends or a close and attentive family helps students to feel
supported in times of stress (Halamandaris & Power, 1997a).
The festive-addictive coping has no functional or dysfunctional
effects, but correlates with substance use without seeming to
have consequences on physical or mental heath among students
during the first year. It is possible that this factor has a long-
term effect on health, as substance use often predicts health
problems among young adults, but this effect would certainly
manifest at a much later point in time (Vollrath, 1998).
In summary, our study supports previous research with re-
gard to the effect of more traditional strategies of coping
(Stewart et al., 1997). Emotional-avoidance coping consists of
trying to avoid a flooding of emotional tension by diverting
attention from the stressful situation toward satisfying substi-
tutes (e.g. eating more or pleasurable foods, sleeping, watching
TV). This strategy is sometimes effective (at least temporarily)
as it reduces emotional tension (Paxton & Diggens, 1997), but
in our sample its effects were clearly dysfunctional. It corre-
sponds both to an attempt to avoid stressful situations and prob-
lems (it is moderately associated with the emotional- avoidance
coping of the WCC) and with the seeking of imme- diate and
shared pleasures. Consuming food or other substances in the
face of adversity seems to be a very specific strategy that has
parallels with addiction, even if this consumption does not in-
volve psychoactive substances (Ball & Lee, 2002). With re-
gard to “festive-addictive coping”, our findings were unex-
pected. Psychoactive substance consumptions are not associ-
ated in the avoidance/emotion-focused coping but are associ-
ated to having fun with friends. This suggests that consumption
is used in a festive mode, and that it is not unhealthy when we
are looking only at the students’ lives in their first year.
Among the coping factors of this specific scale, avoidance/
emotion-focused coping, one behavioral strategy appears to be
particularly relevant to first year students: the recourse to “fes-
tive addictive” coping. This underlines the originality of the
new tool we have developed. The context in which first-year
students live, which involves both developmental and educa-
tional transition, seems to be one in which students experience
rather specific states of stress (e.g. academic stress, loneliness,
stress relating to the dysfunctions of the university itself). In
order to face these states of stress, certain students will adopt a
festive-addictive coping strategy (Vollrath, 1998), which will
provide short-term satisfaction and relief from stress. This is
Copyright © 2012 SciRes.
E. BOUJUT ET AL.
compatible with the Theory of Self-Medication (Khantzian,
1985), in which behaviors like smoking or drinking are able
to have a regulating function on emotion. They seem to be re-
lated more to the quest for social support than an unhealthy
addictive strategy, given the correlation that was found between
the factor of “search for social support” of the WCC and that of
festive coping. This type of strategy is a good illustration of
how the feeling of freedom can improve the students’ percep-
tion of stress in the beginning of their first year—during a pe-
riod during in which the students’ relationships to their parents
change, and when the university institution itself is not per-
ceived to be sufficiently “framing” (i.e. it does not provide the
students with a satisfying amount of structure). This first year
of study coincides with a period of transition, in which students
can explore their identity, and try new experiences (Arnett,
2004). It is particularly interesting that coping responses are
seemingly characteristic of the age group that was sampled (e.g.
changing dietary habits, sleep patterns, and self-medicating). In
all general coping scales, we found only one item which con-
cerned substance use as a strategy (Carver et al., 1989), and this
item is a factor and was not associated with other behaviors.
Moreover, only one specific students’ coping scale (Allison et
al., 1997) is described in literature, but it has not been statisti-
cally validated. This students’ coping scale was used when
developing the study described in this report, as it links specific
behaviors to the coping strategies used by young adults in times
In conclusion, further effort should be made with regard
health education, with the aim of helping students to modify
their behaviors in times of stress. We have emphasized the
importance of certain behaviors as avoidance strategies (e.g. to
eat more or sleep more than usual), and have drawn attention to
the risks that can be incurred through these behaviors. The
stress that is generated by entering an institution with complex
rules and in which students may feel anonymous requires these
students to undertake various efforts of adjustment, and these
coping strategies can be more or less successful. The adoption
of an avoiding strategy, rather than a vigilant strategy, can lead
students to develop depressive affects and to adopt unhealthy
eating habits. It would be very interesting to develop the stu-
dents’ personal competencies, so that they are learning how to
adopt functional strategies of coping (i.e. coping centred on the
problem) rather than of the harmful kind (e.g. emotional-
avoidance coping). Certain environmental and sometimes indi-
vidual conditions can limit the choice of coping strategy that
the students adopt, and encourage the most vulnerable of stu-
dents toward the adoption of avoidance strategies and risk be-
haviors. We know that the family unit and university personnel
can play an important and beneficial role in helping students
cope with this transitory period (Boujut, Koleck, Bruchon-
Schweitzer, & Bourgeois, 2009). Similarly, health professionals
assigned to universities could play an important role as regards
the prevention, tracking and treatment of student stress, if ade-
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