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J Pers Soc Psychol. 2007 Apr;92(4):745-58.

Does repressive coping promote resilience? Affective-autonomic response discrepancy during bereavement.

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  • 1Department of Counseling and Clinical Psychology, Teachers College, Columbia University, New York, NY 10027, USA.


Traditional theories of coping emphasize the value of attending to and expressing negative emotion while recovering from traumatic life events. However, recent evidence suggests that the tendency to direct attention away from negative affective experience (i.e., repressive coping) may promote resilience following extremely aversive events (e.g., the death of a spouse). The current study extends this line of investigation by showing that both bereaved and nonbereaved individuals who exhibited repressive coping behavior--as measured by the discrepancy between affective experience and sympathetic nervous system response--had fewer symptoms of psychopathology, experienced fewer health problems and somatic complaints, and were rated as better adjusted by close friends than those who did not exhibit repressive coping. Results are discussed in terms of recent developments in cognitive and neuroimaging research suggesting that repressive coping may serve a protective function.

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