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Elizabeth Kirchner

Psychology &
Social Behavior

As an active participant in research since her first year at UCI, Elizabeth Kirchner knows the importance of experience. She has gained experience not only through her research, but also through her extracurricular activities as a Research Design tutor and her position as the secretary of UCI’s Psychology Club. Elizabeth has also volunteered her time with R’CHANCE, a community service club that works with disadvantaged children. Through practice, research and teaching, Elizabeth hopes to serve the mental health needs of children and their families. She plans to pursue a graduate degree in clinical social work at Columbia University. triangle.gif (504 bytes)




The present study sought to gain insight into the ways that offspring cope with parental depression using the primary-secondary control coping model and to compare the coping strategies used for parental depression (a perceived uncontrollable stressor) with those used for school or work problems (perceived controllable stressors). Quantitative and qualitative responses were analyzed from an anonymous questionnaire that was completed by offspring (ages 12 years to 78 years, n=17) of depressed parents. Respondents offered several consistent suggestions for how offspring can cope with the stress of parental depression. Analysis of the quantitative data indicated that offspring differ in their overall use of primary and secondary strategies in response to the stressors of parental depression and school or work problems. Offspring frequently reported using the strategies of emotion regulation and wishful thinking to cope with parental depression. In contrast, offspring frequently reported using the strategies of problem-solving and positive thinking to cope with school or work problems. These differences were statistically significant.triangle.gif (504 bytes)

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Faculty Mentor                                                                                                                
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Roxane Silver

School of Social

This study grew out of a superb paper that Elizabeth wrote for my Social Animal course in which she conducted a social psychological analysis of the consequences of living with a mentally ill family member. Elizabeth decided to expand on this topic for her Social Ecology Honors Thesis, where she examined the coping strategies employed by offspring of depressed parents as they attempt to cope with their parents’ illness. Because it is so difficult to locate and study individuals who are coping with the stress of having a mentally ill parent, Elizabeth’s conceptually and methodologically rigorous study advances the field considerably. Moreover, her interesting and important results will be useful for therapists as they assist people in coping with the stress of parental depression. I take particular pride in having the opportunity to have supervised Elizabeth’s outstanding project.triangle.gif (504 bytes)

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Copyright 2001 by the Regents of the University of California.  All rights reserved.