STRESS AND COPING MANAGEMENT OF TEENAGE PARENTS
Life is a series of choices. Deciding whether to marry, whether to have children, whether to have two careers in one marriage, and whether to view a situation positively are among the more important choices you will ever make in your lifetime. And besides of all this choices, problems may appear and turn to stress that people encounter in daily living.
Stress is the “wear and tear” our bodies experience as we adjust to our continually changing environment; it has physical and emotional effects on us and can create positive or negative feelings.
As a positive influence, stress can help compel us to action; it can result in a new awareness and an exciting new perspective. As a negative influence, it can result in feelings of distrust, rejection, anger and depression, which in turn can lead to health problems such as headaches, upset stomach, rashes, insomnia, ulcers, high blood pressure, heart disease, and stroke.
With the death of loved one, the birth of the child, a job promotion, or a new relationship, we experience stress as we readjust our lives. In so adjusting to different circumstances, stress will help or hinder us depending on how we react to it. Moreover, stress is, of course, an inevitable part of every one’s life. Some stress is essential, and some is actually energizing. As a leading researcher said, “complete freedom from stress is death” ( Selye, 1980).
On the other hand, early marriage can lead to a couple a number of potential problem. Couple should be aware all the possible difficulties which could lie ahead. There’s a lot of problems that may arise in early marriage. Like for instance, the problem of adequate financial support is obvious. Although money does not buy happiness, it is true a tight financial situation can create tensions, which can undermine an otherwise happy relationship. While some financial problems are to be expected in almost any new marriage, it is important to take time to think sensibly, so that such problems will not destroy what could otherwise be a beautiful relationship, if not undertaken prematurely.
Money, according to Coleman (1984), ranks as the single most common cause of conflict in marriage. These are conflicts over who earns the money, who spends much on what and who manages the money in terms of paying bills, borrowing and investing. Pietropinto and Siminauer found out that not only is money a major source of conflict in marriage but also that debts are the greatest crisis in marriage (Coleman, 1984).
According to Leslie (1980), financial adjustments problems vary over the life cycle. Young married couples generally must start almost from scratch and purchase virtually everything required to run a household. On one income, this is difficult, but on two income, it is easier.
This is not to suggest that you will wait about marriage until every possible financial problem has been completely solved, but rather simply suggests that you do not close your eyes to the real situation whatever it may be. Although some newly married couples find it necessary to temporarily make their home with their parents, this is generally not a wise choice unless absolutely necessary and then only for as short a period of time as possible.
A second problem which must be faced by those who enter into an early marriage is the problem of personal maturity. While immature and irresponsible actions may sometimes seem funny before marriage, they can become serious pitfalls within the marriage bond. This is one reason why a courtship of at least several months should precede any marriage, since even the most irresponsible and self-centered person put on a good front for a few weeks or months. One of the surest signs of immaturity and irresponsibility in both young men and young women is a lack of willingness to do a reasonable share of work in a consistent, dependable way prior to marriage. When such an indifferent attitude is demonstrated before marriage, you can be sure that it is only likely to become worse after marriage.
. A third potential problem to be considered is the problem of growing apart. This simply means that while two young people in their middle teenage years have much in common, that in many cases, our ideals and goals change as we pass the teenage years, to such extent that we may easily find ourselves married for life to a person with whom we will ultimately have very little in common.
Perhaps the worst mistake of all is to marry simply to get away from an unpleasant situation at home. Even if you are presently facing home problems which seem almost unbearable, you will not have to remain in such a situation forever. When you marry, however, it is for life. So don’t let current personal problems drive you into a marriage which you may otherwise not really want. Such a choice usually proves to be a very poor trade indeed, and one that often leads to a lifetime of regret.
Selye (1982), the father of stress research, defines stress as a stimulus event of sufficient severity to produce disequilibrium in the homeostatic physiological systems. Stress also has been conceptualized variously as a nonspecific response of the body to any demand that exceedsthe person’s ability to cope, as a person- environment relationship that threatens or taxes personal resources, and as a mental state in response to strain or daily hassles ( Lazarus and Launier, 1978; Lazarus, De Longis, Folkman, and Gruen, 1985; Rutter, 1983).
Stress can be caused by both positive and negative things in one’s life. A little stress is not unhealthy, but too much stress and tension can cause serious illnesses, headaches, hostility and emotional disorders. Dealing with stress and knowing how to spot the things that cause it ( called stressors)are extremely important. People who are stress survivors stay healthy through the worst of times. They consider stressful situations opportunities for growth.
On the other hand, there are four factors that can cause stress namely:
1. Change. ( Lazarus) identified two types of daily events involving change such as negative and positive side. On the negative side are hassles, which are the “irritating, frustrating, or distressing incidents that occur in our everyday transactions with the environment.” Common hassles include misplacing or losing things, having too many things to do, and being concern about physical appearance. On the positive side are uplifts, which include such pleasures as completing a task, visiting or phoning a friend, and feeling healthy.
2. Unpredictability is stressful because you cannot plan for these random events- you have to be constantly ” on your toes.” For example, you know that you will graduate from college on a certain date, and if you are planning a wedding, you probably will know many months in advance the date on which you will get married.
3. Lack of control. Many events in our environment may be particularly stressful because they emphasize our vulnerability and lack of control.
4. Conflict, which is a state that occurs when a person is motivated to choose between two or more mutually exclusive goals or courses of action. Investigators have identified four major types of categories of conflict ( Lewin 1931; Miller, 1944). These are : Approach- approach conflict: which involves a choice between two attractive goals; Avoidance-avoidance conflict: this type of conflict results when people must choose between two unattractive goals; Approach-avoidance conflict: involves only one goal which has both attractive and unattractive qualities; double-approach-avoidance conflict: this type of conflict result when a person has to choose between two goals, each of which has both positive and negative qualities.
Selye’s view is that human beings do not always react to stress in the uniform way he proposed. There is much more to understanding stress in humans than knowing their physical reactions to it. We also need to know about their personality, their physical makeup, their perceptions, and the context in which the stressor occurred (Hobfoll,1989; Parker, Finkel, and indice, 1993 ). The severity of stress consequences depends partly on how a man understands and feels about the stressor. (Donald Meichenbaum) suggested that the stress response be divided into four separate phases: “preparing for a stressor, confronting or handling a stressor, possibly being overwhelmed by a stressor, and finally, reinforcing oneself for having coped.”
Selye, a Montreal, Canada, Physician and Author of several books on stress, feels that ther is a type of stress that can be harmful. He calls it distress. Distress is continual stress that causes you to constantly readjust or adapt
In this connection, Doctors suggest some guidelines on how to live with stress:
1. Work off stress- if you are angry or upset, try to blow off steam physically by activities such as running, playing tennis, or gardening and also even taking a walk. Physical activity allows you a “fight” outlet for mental stress.
2. Talk out your worries – it helps to share worries with someone you trust and respect. This may be a friend, family member, teacher or counselor.
3. Learn to accept what you can’t change – if the problem is beyond your control at this time, try your best to accept it until you can change it.
5. Get enough sleep and rest- lack of sleep can lessen your ability ti deal with stress by making you more irritable.
6. Balance work and creation- all work and no play can make Jack a nervous wreck. Schedule time for recreation to relax your mind.
7. Do something for others – sometimes when you are distressed, you concentrate too much on yourself and your situation. When this happens, it is often wise to do something for someone else, and get your mind off of yourself.
8. Take one thing at a time- it is defeating to tackle all your tasks at once. Instead, set some aside and work on the most urgent
9. Give in once in a while- if you find the source of stress is other people try giving in instead of fighting and insisting you are always right
10. Make yourself available- when you are bored and feel left out, go where the action is !Sitting alone will just make you more frustrated.
Stress is a personal matter. How much stress we experience is determined by the quality and intensity of a combination of variables: the dimensions of the stressor, the way we interpret the meaning of the stressor, the resources we have available to deal with the stressor, and the amount and nature of the total strain placed on the individual.
Coping is the process of managing taxing circumstances, expending effort to solve personal and interpersonal problems, and seeking to master, minimize, reduce or tolerate stress and conflict. A stressful event can be rendered considerably less stressful if a person successfully cope with it. Successful coping depends on two factors: problem-solving and emotional self-regulation. Some individual have been “hardy” because they seem able to transform potentially stressful situations into less stressful experiences. Several techniques have been practically used or applied by individual to deal life demands more effectively with stress :
1. Progressive relaxation : the alternate tensing and relaxing of different muscle groups of the in a specific sequence;
2. Autogenic training : a relaxation produce that depends on self-suggestion and amagery;
3. Biofeed back : a form of operant conditioning design to make people aware of an unconscious physiological response so they can learn to control it (Bower, 1987).
White (1974) refers to three components of the coping process:
1. The ability to gain and process new information;
2. The ability to maintain control over one’s emotional; and
3. The ability to move freely with in one’s environment.
In addition, the study of Mariquit (1997), identified three coping styles that the people deals with the stressors in their lives. These are cognitive coping strategies, problem-focused, and emotion-focused strategies. That according to Ellis and Bernard (1985) cognitive coping strategies involved changing how people interpret stressors. Cognitive coping strategies help people think more clearly, rationally and constructively in the face of the stress. Cognitive styles does not eliminate the stressors, but it can make it less threatening and disruptive. Cognitive coping replaces catastropic thinking with thought in which stressors are viewed as challenges rather than threats to self-steem. Many people manage stress and anxiety with cognitive coping strategies, that they prepare themselves from pressure through gradual exposure to increasingly higher levels of stress. (Janis, 1985). Study by Lazarus and Allport (1985) suggest that people can learn to manage their stress stress to some extent by thought processes. A major role of the current research is to prepare people to react in constructive ways to early signs of stress. Each individual deals with stressful situation in his or her unique way, often using a combination of problem-focused and emotion-focused strategies. In most instances, problem solving is the healthier approach but not all problems can be solved. In such instances as an incapacitating illness or the loss of a loved one, individuals may need to reduce emotional distress until they can face the situation in its entirely. We often use emotion-focused coping to maintain hope, to keep our moral so that we can continue to function. In general, emotion-focused forms of coping occur when a person is experiencing a high level of stress and has decided that nothing can be done to modify the threatening conditions. Problem-focused forms of coping, on the other hand, are more probable at moderate level of stress, where the situation is appraised as changeable (Lazarus and Folkman, 1984).
Furthermore, coping strategies can also be categorized as active-cognitive; active-behavioral; and avoidance strategies (Billings, Cronkite, Moss, 1983;Billings and Moss, 1981). Active-cognitive are coping responses in which individual actively think about a situation in an effort to adjust more effectively. For example, if you have a problem that involved braking up with a husband or wife, you may have coped by using logical reasoning about why you would be better off in the long run being out of this relationship. You might have also analyzed why the relationship did not work. Active-behavioral strategies are coping responses in which individual take some type of action to improve their problem situation. For example, a couples problem might get some help from the other people, like a counselor. Avoidance coping strategies are responses that individuals use to keep stressful circumstances out of awareness so they do not have to deal with them. Everything we know about coping suggests that avoidance strategies can be extremely harmful to individuals adjustments when they are used for more than a brief relief from experiencing stress. For example, of having a marital problems, an avoidance strategy is to simply do nothing about the problem concerns.
In another respect, one who make full adjustment to his environments, his social being, and other people is one that who easily relate their experiences, feeling and emotions to the people whom the interact with. Some people say that they share affection in order to gain more or less the same from others and try to get along with them and be able to form close and satisfying relationships with others and believed that when problems are shared they are lighten.
Social support of other people is a significant factor in relieving marital stress (Bunk and Janssen, 1987). Moreover, according to Robert L. Khan (1986), there is only one anti-stressors that helps in almost all situations – having a strong system of social support. Friends and family can provide an objective view of problem and they can also give encouraging feedback as couple make progress in learning how to handle stress better. Considerable research now indicates that social support reduces or buffers the adverse psychological impact of exposure to stressful life events and on going life strains (Cohenand Wills, 1985.)
In addition, acquiring social support can be away of coping with stress caused by the problems and conflicts encountered in everyday life. Ensel and Len (1989) said that if we consider life stress as the aspect of the social environment having a detrimental effect on well-being, then it is reasonable to expect that there are aspects in the social environment that enhance one’s ability either to improve well-being to counter potential adverse effects of life stress. The authors defined social support as the process by which resources in the social structure are brought to bear to meet the functional needs in routine and crisis situations. Zimbardo (1992) adopt a similar concept of social support as referring to the sources others provide, giving the message that one is loved, cared for , esteemed, and connected to other people in a network of communication and mutual obligation. Zimbardo further mentioned that we all cope with stress as individuals, but, for a lifetime of effective coping and for the continued success of our species, it is necessary for as to form alliances with others. Isolation can lead to inadequate coping and can itself be the cause of stress. Contemporary research shows that being a part of a social support network and living and working in a healthy environment leads to an improvement in coping.
However, many discover that getting married was a desperate flight to intimacy and being married becomes a burdensome pressure to escape aloneness and freedom (Lester, 1979 ). This is one of the reasons why many end up in divorce and separation which define the unstable marriage of a couple. Furthermore, the Juvenile Delinquents Court, Quezon City has a record nearly one thousand person who applied for annulment of marriage or legal separation ( Record Book,1975. The main cause of this is early marriage. However, early marriage is not an easy one, it can lead you to problem as a result of stress. “Marriage is not just an adventure but a lifetime commitment. It is the foundation of the family and an inviolable social institution” ( Article 1, Family Code ). Therefore, if you planned to marry be sure and be aware a number of potential problems which are encountered by a marriage couple. According to ( Roberta Flack ), ” Getting married is easy. Staying married is difficult. Staying happily married for a lifetime should rank among the fine arts.”
Recent studies reveal that one of the most sought changes in a married couple’s life, the birth of their first child, is also a source of major stress, contributing to reduced marital satisfaction ( Cowan and Cowan, 1988 ).
Hundreds of studies demonstrate beyond doubt that teenage marriages are high-risk marriage. A few succeed, most fail. The great dream of happiness and lasting romance disappears under the burdens, monotomy and routine of earning. Cooking, paying bills, housekeeping , caring for children , and being excluded from the teenage groups (Landis, 1977).
As seen from statistical studies the optimum age for success in marriage is between ages 21-29 for women and between ages 24-29 for men. (Gilmer, 1977).
Furthermore, a study conducted by Landis (1979) revealed that the younger the person at marriage, the greater the likelihood of failure. Failure runs up to 75% among the younger marriages. Part of the reasons is that young marriages are forced by pregnancy.
Some researchers have viewed stress as resulting from exposure to major life changes or life events ( Dohrenwend and Dohrenwend, 1974; Dohrenwend and Shrout
others may face complications in giving birth. Newborn children of teenage mothers often have low birth weights and higher than average incidence of serious birth defects. Infant mortality rates are also high among children born to very young mothers (Neubeck,1991). 2) Teenage mothers often do not complete high school, and may live below the poverty level (Atkinson, et al,1990). 3) Teen-age mother’s lack of knowledge of maternal and child health care puts a great strain not only to her and the baby also on her own family who often times carries the burden of caring for pregnant adolescents.
The family cannot be understood in isolation from the rest of society. It is integrated into the community and culture to which it belongs. What takes place in the family is highly dependent on and related to that which takes place in other aspects of society (Medina, 1991)
Today, more and more social scientist and population experts are focusing their attention on the increasing number of teenage pregnancies worldwide. There is indeed enough cause for such concern. Most of the teenagers who admitted having engaged in premarital sex eventually encountered the problem of pregnancy. Findings of a National Research Council (1987), revealed that teenage pregnancy rate in the United Stated is one of the highest in the world. In 1984 alone, 1 million teenage girls and 10% of all teenage girls in the nation become pregnant. About half had their babies, 13% miscarried, and 40% had abortion (National Research Council, NRC, 1987) . Furthermore the first Interhemispheric Conference on Adolescent Fertility in the Philippines revealed that close to 13 million girls who become married in 1975 where teenagers. With regards to adolescent fertility situation in the nation, local expert have found the increase in teenage pregnancies in the Philippines (Bernales, 1985).
Dreyer (1982) suggest several reasons for early expression of sexual behavior; 1) Adolescents are reaching sexual maturity at younger ages than in previous decades; 2) Knowledge and use of contraception are becoming more wide spread, thus eliminating fears of pregnancy; 3) Adults’ sexual attitudes and behavior are changing; 4) Adolescents consider sexual behavior normal in an intimate relationship (Lefton, 1991).
However , the consequences of teenage pregnancy are great. To name a few, these are : 1). The younger the age at which pregnancy occurs, the higher the probability that the mother and child will have serious health problem. Young mothers may face complications in giving birth. Newborn children of teenage mothers often have low birth weights and higher than average incidence of serious birth defects. Infant mortality rates are also high among children born to very young mothers (Neubeck, 1991). 2). Teenage mothers often do not complete high school, and may live below the poverty levels (Atkinson, et al, 1990). 3). Teenage mothers lack of knowledge of maternal and child health care puts a great strain not only to her and the baby also on her family who often times carries the burden of caring for pregnant adolescents.
Teenage marriage is a worldwide phenomenon in which thousands of teenagers make terrible mistakes because of not knowing how to handle adolescents’ emotions. Some who are misinterpreting their feelings of love leap into premature marriages. Many married couples who opt to stay together may not really be happy. They stay married for the seek of the children, or for religion or financial reasons. But actually they find that they are not really in love at all. Since eros or erotic love is a natural love, as also philia love, (Rosenbaum, 1979), it is natural that when couples spend a lot of times together they begin to think about building a permanent relationship.
In the researcher’s observation, many Filipinos marry at young age, usually before reaching the age of twenty. In rural areas, teenage marriages occur as early as thirteen years old because of lack of opportunities to pursue other activities like going to school that can divert the attention of young people towards the powerful stimulation of sex and the attraction of the opposite sex.
Burchinal, (1977), has done a great deal of research on young marriages. Young marriages are arbitrarily defined as those entered at under 19 years of age. Individuals who select a mate in the younger age groups have certain characteristics that distinguish from the older group. Burchinal found that early marriages: 1). Usually involve young girls and their slightly older husbands. 2). Involve premarital pregnancies in between approximately one third to one half of all cases. 3). Disproportionately involve persons with lower or working class backgrounds.
Another studies of young marriages indicates that girls who marry young are emotionally less stable than those who marry later and they have less satisfactory relationships with their parental families.
Burchinal suggests that the rates of young marriage may go down in the near future. He thinks if possible that increasingly greater value attached to extending education will have an impact on young marriages: “Increased school and post-high school attendance should be associated with a reduction in young marriage rates. Among 17-year-olds, schooled dropout rates declined from 32% in 1950 to 24% in 1960.” But while marriage frequently leads to ending formal education if the individuals are in high school it is much less apt to have the same negative effect when the couple are older and in college. There is some evidence to support Burnichal’s contention. Parke and Glick show that 23% of all the women who were 30 to 34 years of age had married before 18. ” The rate of early teenage marriages is successively smaller for each younger group of women. Only 15% of all the women who are currently 18 and 19 years old married before age 18.”
However ,there are variations in age at marriage related to certain social variables. For example, early marriage has a strong attraction for some young people. Some see early marriage as the best means to achieve adult status and related privileges. It is also seen as providing a daily and nightly partner “who serves to reduce the psychological cost extracted from the alone individual by the mobility-achievement system which pervades much of our society.” In other words, early marriage is seen by many as providing them with a ” significant other at a time when they have a strong need for that type of relationships.”
As suggested earlier, there are also possible negative consequences to early marriage. The earlier the marriage the more apt it is to be dissolved by the couple. Also, the earlier the marriage, the more likely it is to be characterized by negative effects. Very often the question of success or failure in a marriage may be less determined by chronological age than by personal and social maturity.
Marriage involves critical planning. Any action taken may result with gains and losses. If the partners are indifferent towards the factors that contribute to success, their marriage will become worthless. But if the factors are given priority, they will gain a meaningful marriage. Early marriage below twenty years old, may be considered as an offshoot to some factors such as emotional, financial, religion, age, and educational attainment.
This study assumes that families of today are endangered and reason for this phenomenon is the rapid change in society norms and conditions caused by urbanization and industrialization (Medina, 1991). As a result, the family is encountering new and more complex stressors as compared to the stressors faced by the family of yesterday.
Following this concept, the reaserchers in this study has identified three stressors namely: Financial factors, psychological factors, and social factors.
Financial refers to insufficient income/earnings not enough to sustain the needs of the family. Financial difficulties are usually handled by couples through budgetting or borrowing money usually from relatives and close friends (Leslie, 1980).
Psychological refers to the negative perception or interpretation o fthings of events. It may be either frustration or conflict (Sferra, 1961).
In this study, it involves emotional-refers to negative affect of feelings; behavioral-refers to negative acts or behavior; and cognitive-refers to negative thinking and perceiving.
Social, pertaining to man as living to society (Webster Dictionary, 1967) As used in this study, it refers to the interaction of teenage man and woman with other people or friends.
Coping strategies are the means of dealing with the perceived threat of various types of stressors. A person cannot avoid stress but he can learn to cope with it. There are two main types of coping identified in this study. These are negative and positive coping approaches. Positive coping is confronting the problems through positive action or through realistic problem-solving activities. Negative coping is confronting the problems through negative action. The concept of this paper is illustrated in the schematic diagram, below.
StressorsTeenage married Coping
·Financial Factors couple ·Positive
·Psychological Factors ·Negative
This study aims to determine the stresses and coping strategies encountered by Teenage Parents.
Specifically, it seeks to answer the following questions:
1. What is the profile of the respondents in terms of:
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