Coping with poverty-related stress: A narrative review

Chelsea O. Mayo, Holly Pham, Brandon Patallo, Celina M. Joos, Martha E. Wadsworth

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

6 Scopus citations


The pernicious effects of poverty contribute to significant mental and physical health disparities. Though much research highlights coping as a means of interrupting stress processes, no review exists detailing how individuals across the lifespan cope with poverty-related stress (PRS). In this narrative review, we discuss the current knowledge of how children, adolescents, adults, and family units cope with PRS, and what coping strategies are related to positive mental and physical health outcomes in these contexts. Our findings indicate that direct, active coping is most often associated with positive outcomes, yet avenues for such agentic coping are scarcer in the context of poverty. Additionally, much qualitative literature revealed the many creative, resourceful, and non-traditional strategies adults and communities use to combat the stressors of poverty. Findings also underscore how the adaptive value of different coping strategies is often context dependent. We conclude that this scholarship can be greatly improved with research methodology that better examines causality and synthesizes effective quantitative and qualitative methods. These improvements, as well as increased incorporation of collective coping, will enhance important intervention research.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number101024
JournalDevelopmental Review
StatePublished - Jun 2022

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Pediatrics, Perinatology, and Child Health
  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Education
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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