Coping with distress among adolescents: Effectiveness of personal narratives on support websites




Adolescence, coping strategies, narrative, quantitative analysis, social support, virtual environments


Sharing, reading and responding to personal narratives on peer-to-peer support websites may provide adolescents with informational and emotional support to feel more confident in coping with stressful events. However, their use may also pose a threat to adolescents’ coping self-efficacy. Principles of expressive writing, social sharing of emotions, narrative persuasion and self-effects may provide insight in how these actions may both positively and negatively relate to coping self-efficacy. By using a cross-sectional online survey with 311 Dutch-speaking adolescents between the ages of 14 and 18, this article explores how these actions and social support motives (i.e. information-seeking and emotional support-seeking) are related to adolescents’ perceptions about the usefulness of these websites to their coping self-efficacy. The results showed a positive relation between adolescents’ social support motives and their belief in the usefulness of these websites to their coping self-efficacy. Therefore, we conclude that it may be an effective coping strategy for many adolescents. There was a negative relation between experience with sharing a personal narrative and coping self-efficacy, meaning that these users did not perceive the website to be helpful to their overall confidence in coping with stressful events. However, this negative relation was reversed when they were motivated to find emotional support with similar others.