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The Transactional Theory of Coping

How does the Transactional Theory of Coping proposed by Lazarus and Folkman (1984b) aid our understanding of human coping behaviors?

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The Transactional theory of coping (Lazarus and Folkman, 1984b) is by far the most accepted interactional model of coping. Unlike those theories that emphasize either personal or environmental influences on coping, Lazarus and Folkman's model emphasizes the transaction, that is, the interaction between personal and environmental factors in shaping coping behaviors. Stress, in transaction theory, refers to internal or external demands that are appraised as exceeding the person's resources (Lazarus and Folkman, 1984b). The relationship between the person and the environment is affected by two processes: cognitive appraisals which determine the meaning of the transaction, the effectiveness of coping responses and the emotional response; and coping, by which people manage the person-environment relationship (Folkman et al, 1991). Coping is defined by Folkman et al (1986) as the person's constantly changing cognitive and behavioral efforts to manage specific external and/or internal demands that are appraised as taxing or exceeding the person's resources.

Appraisal is the process through which people evaluate a given person-environment relationship with respect to its importance (primary appraisal) and resources and options used to change the relationship (secondary appraisal) (Folkman et al, 1991). In primary appraisal, the person asks "What do I have at stake in this encounter?". The response to this question leads to an appraisal of either harm/loss, threat or challenge, and related emotional response to stress appraisal. For example, while anger indicates threats to self-esteem, anxiety reflects threats to our being and to the essential meaning that comprises it (Lazarus,1993). Indeed, the appraisal process is ...