Development of Maladaptive Coping: A Functional Adaptation to Chronic, Uncontrollable Stress

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Health disparities are rooted in childhood and stem from adverse early environments that damage physiologic stress-response systems. Developmental psychobiological models of the effects of chronic stress account for both the negative effects of a stress-response system calibrated to a dangerous and unpredictable environment from a health perspective, and the positive effects of such an adaptively calibrated stress response from a functional perspective. Our research suggests that the contexts that produce functionally adapted physiologic responses to stress also encourage a functionally adapted coping response-coping that can result in maladjustment in physical and mental health, but enables children to grow and develop within those contexts. In this article, I highlight the value of reframing maladaptive coping as functional adaptation to understand more completely the development of children's coping in different contexts, and the value of such a conceptual shift for coping-based theory, research, and intervention.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)96-100
Number of pages5
JournalChild Development Perspectives
Issue number2
StatePublished - Jun 1 2015

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Pediatrics, Perinatology, and Child Health
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Life-span and Life-course Studies


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