Introduction: This study investigated how coping strategies moderated the impact of disaster-related objective hardship on subjective distress in pregnant women.
Methods: The objective hardship (exposure severity), subjective distress (Peritraumatic Distress Inventory, Peritraumatic Dissociative Experiences Questionnaire and Impact of Event Scale-Revised) and coping styles (Brief COPE) of pregnant women (N = 226) exposed to the 2011 Queensland, Australia flood were assessed. Moderation analyses were used to assess how coping strategies moderated the relationship between objective hardship and subjective distress levels.
Results: We found that the more severe the objective flood exposure, the greater the women's subjective distress. The moderation analyses were significant for the Brief COPE's three coping styles (i.e., problem-focused coping, emotion-focused coping, and dysfunctional coping). For women experiencing high levels of objective hardship, problem-focused (∆R2 = 1.7%) and dysfunctional coping (∆R2 = 1.5%) elevated subjective distress levels. For women experiencing low or moderate levels of objective hardship, emotion-focused coping reduced levels of subjective distress (∆R2 = 1.3%). A three-way interaction between objective hardship, emotion-focused coping, and dysfunctional coping approached significance (∆R2 = 1.0%), indicating a protective role of emotion-focused coping under high levels of objective hardship, for women who frequently use maladaptive coping strategies.
Limitations: Sample was generally high SES and no measure of social support was available. Conclusion: Results suggest that both problem-focused and dysfunctional coping strategies were maladaptive for women with relatively high exposure levels. Overall, emotion-focused coping strategies were more likely than problem-focused or dysfunctional strategies to reduce pregnant women's subjective distress following the flood.