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Tools: Adolescent Coping Scale
Frydenberg & Lewis (1993)

James Neill
Last updated:
24 Jul 2004


Tool or Instrument


Adolescent Coping Scale
(Frydenberg & Lewis, 1993)


1. James Neill
2. Australian Council for Educational Research
3. Erika Frydenberg
4. Raymon Lewis
5. Bernd Heubeck
6. Debra Rickwood



The 79-item, 18 factor Adolescent Coping Scale (ACS) is designed to measure the frequency of usage of a variety of coping strategies typically used by adolescents.  The items were generated through qualitative questioning and quantitative piloting of an initial pool of items with Australian adolescents. 

The ACS has potential for application to research in outdoor education and related fields, but I found in Neill (1994; Heubeck & Neill, 1999) that there was little overall change in the frequency of usage of different coping strategies by adolescents between three points of measurement - before, after and three months following  nine day Outward Bound Australia (OBA) programs.  In fact, participants reported a decrease in their use of some 'productive' coping strategies.  On the surface this appears to be a negative finding, suggesting negative effects of OBA programs, but the finding was in contrast to small, positive changes in a well-recognized multidimensional measure of self-concept for adolescents (Self-Description Questionnaire-II; Marsh, 1987).  Thus, it could also be that participants became more effective in their use of various coping strategies and thus didn't use the strategies as much or  it could be that students altered their cognitive appraisals of their perceived problems, so that less coping was needed.  Indeed, theoretical models of outdoor education have suggested that participants undergo a reassessment of their coping strategies and reorganization of meaning about their capabilities (e.g. Hattie, Marsh, Neill, & Richards, 1997; Neill, 2002).

To followup these interesting results, I had three fourth year psychology honors students at the University of Canberra conduct projects with adolescents and university student to determine whether frequency of coping could be measured separately from coping, using the ACS (contact James Neill for copies of their theses).  We did clearly find that these frequency and effectiveness aspects of coping were distinguishable.  So future research on the effects of outdoor education programs on coping could use these instruments to separately measure frequency and effectiveness of coping. 

It should be noted, however, that 18-factor structure of the ACS is problematic.  In the test manual, Frydenberg and Lewis (1993) present weak psychometrics and Heubeck and Neill (unpublished data) have found the the ACS items may be better described as consisting of 6 factors which are more consistent with previous coping theory and literature.  Thus, outdoor education  coping research should continue to work on developing better coping measures.

Finally, the ACS has been discussed above as a dependent measure (an outcome) in quantitative research design.  Some potentially very fascinating and fruitful qualitative work could be conducted in the area of coping with outdoor education programs, and also coping variables can be considered as independent variables which can causally explain dependent variables.  Neill and Heubeck (1997) took this approach and found that students who reported using non-productive coping skills during 9 day Outward Bound Australia programs also reported higher levels of psychological distress during the programs.

Copies of the ACS are purchasable from the Australian Council for Educational Research Council for about AU$1 per questionnaire.  You can also get copies from AGS Publishing. Overall rating: 6/10.