An inverse association between psychosocial functioning and psychotic experiences is now established in both clinical and non-clinical populations, however the mechanisms which drive this are unclear. Adolescents with subclinical psychotic experiences (SPE) are more likely to use maladaptive coping strategies and less likely to use adaptive ones, and maladaptive coping has also been associated with poor functioning. A within study replication in two adolescent samples from the general populations of Melbourne, Australia (n=723) and Birmingham, United Kingdom (n=239), was conducted to determine whether the association between SPE and psychosocial functioning is mediated by coping style.
SPE were associated with reduced general and family functioning and to a lesser extent with reduced peer functioning. Task-oriented (focusing on solving the problem) and emotion-oriented (negative emotional responses) coping were found to mediate the relationship between SPE and three types of functioning in both the Melbourne and the Birmingham samples.
The within study replication consistently found that coping style mediates SPE and psychosocial functioning, despite significant differences in age, gender, functioning, use of coping styles, and level of subclinical psychotic experiences between the two samples. Longitudinal research is needed to fully understand any causal role coping may play in the relationship between SPE and poor functioning. The results have important public health and clinical implications, and suggest that techniques which increase levels of adaptive coping and reduce levels of maladaptive coping (in particular emotion-oriented styles) may help to break the cycle between SPE, functional decline, and eventual need for care.