Children living with chronic illness are faced with everyday challenges that frequently force them to cope in different ways. According to Midence (1994), ten to twenty percent o all children in the United States suffer from a chronic illness. The most common chronic childhood diseases are asthma, congenital heart disease, chronic kidney disease and sickle cell disease. Children are often quite vulnerable and lack education and experience about coping, especially coping with such difficult life issues. Learning how children cope and where they derive their coping skills and education will allow others to understand how they handle the stress of living with a chronic illness.
Coping is the way one adapts to stress and includes both the positive and negative responses to stressful situations. Coping can either be in the form of direct action, where one physically attempts to change the environment, or cognitive modes, where one manipulates thoughts or feeling to contend with a problem (Olsen, Johansen, Powers, Pope & Klein, 1993). For the purpose of this paper, the previous definition of coping will help the reader understand that children’s coping strategies can occur in either of these two forms.
A cross-sectional study by Olsen et al. (1993) investigated whether children with a chronic illness used cognitive strategies as frequently as healthy children. They also examined whether children living with chronic illness utilized cognitive responses different than those used by healthy children coping with other common stressful events in daily life. Olson et al. studied 175 children between the ages of 8-18 years old who attended special summer camps for their chronic Illness. They derived three different illness groups consisting of children with asthma, diabetes, juvenile arthritis. A control group consisted of 145 children from the public school population that were rated healthy children by the investigators.