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The Relationship between Self-Esteem, Sense of Mastery and Humor as Personal Resources and Crisis-Coping Strategies in Three Generations

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Advances in Aging Research, 2014, 3, 160-171
Published Online May 2014 in SciRes. http://www.scirp.org/journal/aar
http://dx.doi.org/10.4236/aar.2014.32024
How to cite this paper: Ron, P. and Rovner, M. (2014) The Relationship between Self-Esteem, Sense of Mastery and Humor
as Personal Resources and Crisis-Coping Strategies in Three Generations. Advances in Aging Research, 3, 160-171.
http://dx.doi.org/10.4236/aar.2014.32024
The Relationship between Self-Esteem,
Sense of Mastery and Humor as Personal
Resources and Crisis-Coping Strategies in
Three Generations
Pnina Ron, Michal Rovner
School of Social Work, University of Haifa, Mount Carmel, Haifa, Israel
Email: pitzyron@research.haifa.ac.il
Received 16 March 2014; revised 8 May 2014; accepted 21 May 2014
Copyright © 2014 by authors and Scientific Research Publishing Inc.
This work is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution International License (CC BY).
http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/
Abstract
Aim: The study’s aim is to examine the coping strategies from a perspective of intergenerational
transmission. Methods: A self-report questionnaire was completed by 504 students, their parents,
and their grandparents. Tools on the questionnaire assessed crisis perception as well as levels of
sense of humor, sense of mastery, and self-esteem, as independent variables, and crisis-coping
strategies, as the dependent variable. Results: Findings indicated that there was intergenerational
transmission of the problem-focused coping strategy in general, and of the intra-personal resourc-
es of self-esteem, and sense of mastery, in particular. The major theoretical contribution of the
study is in extending the concept of intergenerational transmission to include an additional realm;
findings also substantiated and reinforced previous knowledge regarding the strategies for coping
with stress and crises among various age groups. Conclusions: In terms of applicability, recogniz-
ing the phenomenon of intergenerational transmission provides a clinical tool that increases the
possibility of coping with complex problems. In addition, it suggests the need to increase clients
awareness of the significant effects of intergenerational transmission.
Keywords
Intergenerational Transmission, Intra-Personal Resources, Crises-Coping-Strategies
1. Introduction
A crisis is defined as an imbalance between the severity of a problem, in terms of the importance attributed to it,
and the resources available to the individual for coping with the problem. A crisis occurs when the person under
P. Ron, M. Rovner
161
stress reaches a turning point, which in effect constitutes a problem that cannot be solved using familiar coping
strategies [1].
Each individual has a different style of coping in situations of crisis and stress. Some respond by taking action,
some choose physical activities, while others might seek the help of friends and family in order to strengthen
their sense of confidence, and yet others opt for avoidance. Each style is legitimate and serves the individual that
uses it.
Coping is defined as an ongoing effort to attain cognitive and behavioral change, in an attempt to deal with
specific demands, external and internal, which are considered burden some more beyond the resources available
to the individual [2] [3].
The theoretical basis for the current study is the stress theory of Lazarus and Folkman [2], however, this study
will examine perceptions of crisis rather than perceptions of stressful situations. This alteration is based on the
assumption that a crisis develops following unsuccessful coping with a stressful situation. This theory presents
two central processes that occur when a stressful situation is encountered: cognitive assessment and coping. In
the process of cognitive assessment, first there is an initial assessment, which involves a judgment about the na-
ture of the eventwhether it is relevant, challenging, or stressful. If the event is perceived as stressful, a sec-
ondary assessment takes place, in which the individual assesses how to cope with events in order to solve the
problem or reduce potential damage, and also considers which strategy would be the most effective for coping
with the situation. Next is a stage of coping, which is derived from the first and second stages of cognitive as-
sessment and takes into account the individual’s typical style of coping with stress [2]. The researchers catego-
rized the ways for coping with stress into two major types: problem-focused coping and emotion-focused co-
ping styles. Problem-focused coping aims to solve the problem and change the external reality, in an attempt to
influence the source of stress and thus reduce the tension. This type of strategy is used when one estimates that
one is capable of coping with the source of the stress [3] [4]. The emotion-focused coping aims to channel feel-
ings of stress and to redefine the problem in order to relieve the emotional tension. This type of coping does not
attempt to cope with the stressful situation, but rather aims to reduce or manage the emotional distress that ac-
companies it. Problem-focused coping is associated with active strategies, whereas emotion-focused coping is
associated with passive strategies [5].
An additional and major aspect of the theory relates to the external and internal resources available to the in-
dividual for the purpose of coping [6]. The individual’s mental well-being can be affected not only by the coping
strategies, but also by the various resources that are available for use [7] [8]. The current study focuses on the
internal resources of self-esteem, sense of control, and humor, as well as on personal variables, particularly in-
tergenerational transmission, and examines the relationship between these and strategies for coping with crisis
situations.
Rosenberg [9] defines self-esteem as a positive or negative attitude of the individual towards the self. The
term self-esteem includes an array of values and self-judgments regarding one’s own thoughts, emotions, beha-
viors, abilities, and merits as a human being [10].
High levels of self-esteem have been associated in many studies with better mental health in general, better
outcomes of coping, and lower percentages of depression [11]. Self-esteem is a resource for coping with situa-
tions of stress and crisis. It is been shown that high levels of self-esteem predict fewer stressful events over time
[12] [13]. In addition, an association was found between self-esteem and problem-focused coping, between lack
of self-esteem and emotion-focused coping [14]-[16], and between self-esteem and less use of avoidance strate-
gies [14].
An individual’s subjective feeling that significant events in life can be controlled is defined in the research li-
terature as a sense of mastery [17] [18]. The individual has an ongoing feeling of being capable of influencing
the environment in a manner that corresponds to one’s needs. This is, in essence, an active belief that one can
choose between responses of varying degrees of efficacy in order to attain a certain desired objective.
Various studies have found that there is a relationship between sense of mastery and coping strategies. A
sense of mastery that derives from the perception that events can be controlled or changed creates positive feel-
ings; this leads people to plan the actions they might take in stressful situations, which in turn strengthens their
problem-focused coping strategies [19] [20]. In contrast, in situations in which a sense of mastery is low, coping
strategies such as cognitive structuring, relaxation, and even avoidance could be more effective than others [2]
[21].
It was also found that locus of control functions as a mediating variable that affects the way in which the indi-
P. Ron, M. Rovner
162
vidual assesses situations of stress and crisis [22]. The more the individual’s locus of control is internal, the
more likely is one to attribute to oneself the ability affect the events of one’s life and the environment; as a result,
less stress and anxiety are felt during crisis situations and the individual typically shows greater initiative for
coping with problems encountered and tends to prefer problem-focused coping strategies to emotion-focused
coping strategies [23] [24].
Humor is a complex phenomenon which involves a network of cognitive, behavioral, psychological, social,
and emotional aspects [25]. In recent years, several studies have examined the use of humor as a resource for
coping with stress and crisis. The study by Talbot and Lumden [26] found that individuals who used humor had
a greater sense of self-efficacy and a stronger belief in their own abilities. In effect, humor provides a cognitive
assessment of the situation and attenuates the individual’s perception of the situation as a crisis, creating a great-
er sense of having control of the situation.
Individuals with a humoristic approach to life cope more effectively with stress and crisis, by distancing
themselves from stressful situations and increasing their sense of control when coping with stress [27]. In stress-
ful situations, humor serves the function of disconnecting, which is used for adapting and protecting oneself in
difficult life situations [28]. Nevertheless, the study conducted by Celso, Ebner, & Burkhead [29] found that the
use of humor did not significantly improve the negative effect of stressful and crisis events, but only relieved the
tension in these situations.
Intergenerational transmission means copying psychological characteristics from one generation to the next:
it is the process through which one generation has a psychological effect on the attitudes and approaches of the
following generation [30]. Several theoretical approaches examine intergenerational transmission, for example,
the behavioral, familial, and psychoanalytic theories, which differ in terms of their understanding of the process
that takes place. The behavioral theories emphasize processes of imitation and empowerment as a major type of
learning. Children learn not only through experience, but also by observing the behaviors of central figures in
their lives [31] [32].
The theory of social learning, which is part of the behavioral approach, is used in several research studies as a
basis for studying intergenerational transmission of behaviors. Hence, this study too focuses on the theory of so-
cial learning. According to the social learning theory, children’s behavior is formed by imitating behaviors that
they noticed were valued by others [33] [34]. Researchers have noted the effects of intergenerational transmis-
sion in studies that focused on loneliness [35] on parenting patterns [30], and on violent and dangerous beha-
viors, such as smoking, and alcohol or drug abuse [34]. Furthermore, the intergenerational transmission effect
was found in studies that investigated second-generation descendants of Holocaust survivors. It was found that
aspects of mastery, depressive moods, and anxiety are transmitted from one generation to the next [36].
The possibility that intergenerational transmission affects the way individuals cope with stress and crisis has
received only limited attention; however, relying on the consistent findings obtained over time by numerous stu-
dies of generational transmission, it is possible to draw assumptions pertinent to the current study, as follows.
The similarities found between mothers and daughters are generally greater than the similarities found between
fathers and sons, and there is a gender effect which manifests as a greater similarity between mothers and dau-
ghters than between mothers and sons [37] [38].
Based on information presented herein, the current study attempted to examine the effect of intergenerational
transmission on participantsperceptions of coping with crises, while taking into account internal resources.
The main research hypothesis was that a positive relationship would be found between internal resources and
problem-focused coping strategies, and a negative relationship would be found between internal resources and
emotion-focused coping strategies, among members of three consecutive generations.
2. Methods
2.1. Population and Sample
The study population included residents from the northern part of the state of Israel, families in which there were
three generations, and a member of the youngest generation was enrolled in an undergraduate program in social
work at Haifa University. From a group of 450 students, the selected sample included those whose families con-
sisted of three consecutive generations. A convenience sample was used. After examining the triadic sets of
questionnaires that were completed, 168 triadic sets remained, each representing a family of three generations.
P. Ron, M. Rovner
163
Due to the fact that the sample came from the school of social work and that students were asked to invite family
members of other generations who matched their own gender, the number of women in the entire sample was
higher than that of men.
Table 1 describes the demographic characteristics of the participants.
According to the information in Table 1, it appears that the majority of participants were born in Israel
(74.4%), slightly more than half of the participants were either married or living with a partner (55.4%), were
Jewish (56.9%), and secular (54.4%). In addition, demographics indicated an inverse correlation between par-
ticipantsage and the level of education (average education: 8.22 years).
2.2. Research Tools
The tool used in this research was a self-report questionnaire that included the following sections.
(a) A demographic questionnaire which examined participants’ background variables.
(b) A questionnaire of crisis perception, which examined participants’ subjective understanding of the crises
that individuals in our society encounter. Questions relate to a personal crisis, a family crisis, a national crisis,
and the taking of responsibility for each type of crisis. The questionnaire was composed for the purpose of the
current study; hence, a pilot sample of 70 participants was used to determine its reliability. Results indicated a
reliability of 0.58 Cronbach’s alpha. Participants found it difficult to understand the concept of crisis, and there-
fore an explanatory paragraph was added to the questionnaire in order to clarify the meaning of crisis.
(c) A questionnaire on coping strategies: the self-report Cope Questionnaire of Carver and colleagues [2] was
used to examine the way that individuals cope with stressful situations and negative events in daily life. The ori-
ginal questionnaire includes 15 different coping strategies, each of which consists of a four item subscale (for
Table 1. Background characteristics (N = 504).
Generation Variable N %
Grandparents
Parents
Grandchildren Frequency 168
168
168
33.3
33.3
33.3
All sample Gender
Male
Female
63
441
12.5
87.5
All sample
Country of Birth
Israel
Europe/America
North Africa/Asia
375
90
39
74.4
17.8
7.8
All sample
Nationality
Jew
Arab
Other
287
207
10
56.9
41.0
2.1
All sample Family Status
Married/living with a spouse
Unmarried/live alone
279
225
55.4
44.6
All sample
Level of Religiosity
Orthodox
Conservative
Secular
102
123
273
20.2
24.4
54.4
Grandparents
Parents
Grandchildren
Age
M
76.48
49.86
23.29
SD
6.71
5.78
3.45
Grandparents
Parents
Grandchildren Years of Education 8.22
13.13
14.55
5.05
4.4
2.39
Grandparents
Parents
Grandchildren Number of Children 4.72
3.47
1.25
3.27
1.39
0.5
P. Ron, M. Rovner
164
a total of 60 items), and each item describes a particular coping strategy in a single sentence. Responses are pro-
vided using a Likert-like scale ranging from 1 to 4.
The current study used a shorter version of this questionnaire which was translated into Hebrew by Zeidner
and Ben-Zur [39]. The questionnaire includes 30 items pertaining to 15 different coping strategies, such as ac-
tive coping, positive outlook and growth, planning, and emotional support, to mention a few. These strategies
are categorized into two groups: problem-focused coping strategies and emotion-focused coping strategies. A
high score on the questionnaire indicates a greater use of the coping strategies examined by the questionnaire.
The range of internal consistency was between 0.62 and 0.92 Cronbach’s alpha and in the current study between
0.69 and 0.90 Cronbach’s alpha.
(d) To examine the variable of humor, this study used a self-report questionnaire by Thorson and Powell [40].
The multidimensional sense of humor scale (MSHS) was constructed in order to assess humor. It contains 24
items that relate to four different dimensions of humor: humor generation, use of humor as a coping mechanism,
appreciation of humor, and attitudes towards humor and humorous persons. Items were rated on a Likert-like
scale from 1 to 5 (1 = disagree completely; 5 = agree completely). The reliability of the tool was 0.92 Cron-
bach’s alpha in [40] and 0.91 Cronbach’s alpha in the current study.
(e) To examine self-esteem, the self-report questionnaire of Rosenberg was used [9]. The questionnaire con-
sists of ten items, ranked on a Likert-like scale ranging from 1 = disagree completely, to 5 = agree completely.
Five of the items relate to positive feelings regarding self-esteem, such as “I feel I have several good qualities”,
and five items relate to negative feelings regarding self-esteem, such asin general, I tend to consider myself a
failure”. The overall ranking is calculated according to the item averages, such that a high ranking corresponds
to a high level of self-esteem. The questionnaire was translated into Hebrew by Hobfoll and Walfisch [41], who
reported reliability rates between 0.81 Cronbach’s alpha and 0.90 Cronbach’s alpha. In the current study, the en-
tire tool reliability was 0.84.
(f) To examine the variable of sense of mastery, the self-report questionnaire of Pearlin and Schooler [18] was
used. This questionnaire was translated into Hebrew by Hobfoll and Walfisch [41]. It consists of seven items
ranked on a Likert-like scale ranging from 1 to 5, whereby 1 = disagree completely, and 5 = agree completely.
The average score for these seven items represents the individual’s score, after inverting the values so that a high
score indicated a high sense of mastery. According to Ben-Zur [19], the questionnaire’s reliability was 0.80
Cronbach’s alpha.
Data was collected and the SPSS statistics procedures have been conducted in the current study.
The study was approved by the ethical committee of the University of Haifa, Israel.
3. Results
In examining the findings and their relation to the study hypothesis, the first step was to examine the connec-
tions between the interpersonal variables pertaining to the entire sample. A strong and significant positive con-
nection was found between the variable of sense of mastery and the variable of self-esteem (r = 0.54, p < 0.01),
and between the variable of sense of mastery and the variable of humor (r = 0.43, p < 0.01). A strong and sig-
nificant negative connection was found between the variable of sense of mastery and the perception of crisis (r =
0.47, p < 0.01), and a significant and negative connection of medium strength was found between the variable of
self-esteem and the perception of crisis (r = 0.24, p < 0.01). To determine whether there was a connection be-
tween the intrapersonal variables (sense of mastery, self-esteem, and humor) and the two strategies for coping
with crisis (problem-focused coping strategy and emotion-focused coping strategy) among the three generations,
Spearman’s correlation tests were conducted. The findings are presented in Table 2.
According to the information in Table 2, it appears that among the generation of grandchildren, there was a
positive connection between the variable of self-esteem and the use of the problem-focused coping strategy (p <
0.01) and a negative connection between self-esteem and the use of the emotion-focused coping strategy (p <
0.05). In addition, it was found that the variable of sense of mastery was positively connected with the problem-
focused coping strategy (p < 0.01) and negatively connected with the emotion-focused coping strategy (p <
0.05). No significant connection was found between humor and the two types of strategies among the generation
of grandchildren.
Findings with similar tendencies were found among participants of the parent and grandparent generations. In
addition, these two generations were similar to that of the grandchildren in that no significant connection was
P. Ron, M. Rovner
165
Table 2. Spearman correlations between personal resources strategies for coping with crisis in three Israeli generations.
Generation Grandparents Parents Grandchildren
Strategy
Resource
Problem-focused
strategy Emotion-focused
strategy Problem-focused
strategy Emotion-focused
strategy Problem-focused
strategy
Emotion
-
focused
strategy
Self-esteem 0.39* 0.2* 0.47** 0.35** 0.49** 0.1*
Sense of Mastery 0. 38* 0.29* 0.41** 0.53** 0.42** 0.3*
Humor 0.14 0.14 0.26 0.24 0.12 0.1
*P < 0.05; **p < 0.01.
found between humor and the two types of strategies for coping with crisis.
To examine the differences between the two coping strategies in terms of crisis perception and internal re-
sources among all participants in all three generations, a two way MANOVA test was conducted. For the pur-
pose of statistical analysis, each interpersonal variable was assigned to one of two groups, based on scores: one
group had above-average scores (high group), while the other had below-average scores (low group).
The generational variable had a significant effect on the average score for problem-focused coping strategy
[F(5,160) = 5.36, p < 0.01]. To examine the source of these differences, a continuous Scheffe test was conducted,
which revealed that the average score for problem-focused coping strategy among the generation of grandpa-
rents was significantly lower than that found in the generation of either the parents or the grandchildren.
Findings of the variance tests indicated a significant effect of the variable of a self-esteem on the average
score for problem-focused coping strategy [F(5,160) = 12.9, p < 0.01], such that participants with a high score
on self-esteem were more likely to use the problem-focused coping strategy than were participants whose aver-
age score on self-esteem was low.
To examine the quality of the interaction between the variable of the generation and the variable of sense of
mastery and their effects on problem-focused coping strategy, simple effect analyses were conducted using a
one-way ANOVA. The variable of the generation was found to have a significant and simple effect on the use of
problem-focused coping strategy among participants with a high average score on the variable of sense of mas-
tery [F(20,65) = 1.90, p < 0.05].
Additional findings are presented in Table 3 and Table 4.
Based on these two tables and the remaining findings, it appears that differences found between the three ge-
nerations on the three variables of intrapersonal resources were related to the problem-focused strategy for cop-
ing with crises. Participants who reported high levels of self-esteem and sense of mastery tended to use the pro-
blem-focused strategy when coping with crisis, while those who reported low levels of self-esteem tended to use
the emotion-focused coping strategy. Very similar findings were obtained regarding the variable of sense of
mastery.
Regarding these two variables, it was found that there appeared to be intergenerational transmission, from the
grandparents to the parents and from the parents to the grandchildren, of these intrapersonal resources, which
affect the use of the problem-focused coping strategy.
Contrary to the hypothesis, no significant effect was found for the effect of the variable of humor on either of
the two coping strategies.
For an overview of the findings, a stepwise regression analysis was conducted, to help determine which vari-
ables best explained the choice of problem-focused coping strategy for each of the generations. Some demo-
graphic variables were also included in this analysis (gender, family status, education level, and level of reli-
giosity). Findings indicated that the model was significant for the three generations. Among the grandparent ge-
neration [F(3,27) = 15.67, p < 0.01], the sense of mastery variable explained 31% of the use of the problem-fo-
cused strategy (β = 0.49, p < 0.01). The remaining variables did not impact the model.
Among the parent generation [F(6,17) = 19.09, p < 0.01], the variable of self-esteem and the variable of sense
of mastery explained 34% of the use of the problem-focused coping strategy. The strongest predictor of the use
of the strategy was the variable of sense of mastery (β = 0.50, p < 0.01). The next best predictor was the variable
of self-esteem (β = 0.39, p < 0.05). The remaining variables did not impact the model.
Also among the generation of grandchildren, the model was found to be significant [F(9,12) = 12.22, p <
0.01], whereby the variable of self-esteem and the variable of sense of mastery explained 36% of the use of the
problem-focused coping strategy. The relatively highest predictor of the use of this strategy was the variable of
P. Ron, M. Rovner
166
Table 3. Means, standard deviation, and F tests of the problem-focus strategy with the crisis perception according the inter-
nal resources and the generation.
Generation Variable M SD F
Self Esteem
Grandparents Low
High 3.10
3.13 0.47
0.49
Parents Low
High 3.11
3.42 0.46
0.32
Grandchildren Low
High 3.20
3.54 0.40
0.29 [F(5,160) = 12.9, p < 0.01]
Sense of Mastery
Grandparents Low
High 3.13
3.09 0.47
0.51
Parents Low
High 3.13
3.38 0.49
0.30
Grandchildren Low
High 3.10
3.52 0.40
0.29 [F(5,160) = 10.07, p < 0.01]
Humor
Grandparents Low
High 3.11
3.12 0.41
0.57
[F(5,160) = 1.47, n. s.]
Parents Low
High 3.16
3.33 0.42
0.42
Grandchildren Low
High 3.33
3.41 0.48
0.34
Table 4. Means and standard deviation and F tests of the emotion-focused strategy with the crisis perception according to the
internal resources and the generation.
Generation Variable M SD F
Self-esteem
Grandparents Low
High
Parents Low
High
Grandchildren Low
High [F(5,160) = 6.55, p < 0.05]
Sense of Mastery
Grandparents Low
High
Parents Low
High
Grandchildren Low
High [F(5,160) = 20.97, p < 0.01]
Humor
Grandparents Low
High
[F(5,160) = 0.47, n. s.]
Parents Low
High
Grandchildren Low
High
self-esteem (β = 0.38, p < 0.01), followed by the variable of sense of mastery (β = 0.33, p < 0.01). The remain-
ing variables did not impact the model.
P. Ron, M. Rovner
167
4. Discussion
Many studies have discussed the strategies for coping with stress and crisis in various life events, the importance
of understanding which strategy one activates, and the factors that affect the choice of strategy. However, very
little research has been done on the topic from the point of view of intergenerational transmission and its effect
on coping strategies and crisis perception.
In general, findings of the current study suggest that there is intergenerational transmission of the problem-
focused coping strategy and crisis perception between grandparents and parents and between parents and grand-
children, particularly as this relates to three intrapersonal coping resources: self-esteem, sense of mastery, and
humor. This finding is consistent with those of other studies in the professional literature that identified the ex-
istence of intergenerational transmission, as found for example in regard to attachment [42], on the subject of
second-generation to Holocaust survivors [43], and risk behaviors [44]. Very few studies have focused on simi-
lar issues, such as anxiety, depression and trauma. To the best of the author’s knowledge, no study has examined
intergenerational transmission in the context of either the perception of crisis or strategies for coping with crisis.
The finding of intergenerational transmission can be explained by referring to Bowen’s theory of family sys-
tems [45]. This theory provides a comprehensive conceptualization of people and interpersonal relationships
from a generational perspective [46]. According to Bowen, the family is a single unit consisting of a network of
relationships that are intertwined and controlled by the innate impulses of all of its members. These innate im-
pulses have a strong effect on the thoughts, emotions, and behaviors of each and every member of the family.
None of the family members is completely autonomous psychologically; rather, all of the members are greatly
influenced by the familial relationship [47].
Over several decades, quite a bit of attention has been dedicated in the professional literature to the position-
ing and role of grandparents in the multigenerational family. Grandparents were not considered an integral part
of the family, just as the birth of a grandchild was not considered a significant event in the life of the elderly per-
son. It is important to remember that the expeditious modernization processes that have occurred in the Western
family have included also a change in the role structuring within the family, whereby the family, which was pre-
viously characterized in terms of its memberssocial roles, is now defined in terms of its memberssocial rela-
tionships. This has two major implications. The first is related to the demographic level: on the one hand there
has been an increase in longevity (the family contains up to four or five generations), while on the other hand,
there has been a significant decrease in fertility and birth rates. The manifestation of this shift is in the classical
family structure (i.e., mother father, and children), as more and more families consist of a single parent, single-
sex parents, or multiple parents, to name a few developments. Concurrent with these demographic and structural
changes, there has been also a shift in the attitude towards the generation of the grandparents. There is a growing
tendency to recognize the importance of multigenerational relationships within the family. A study conducted by
Kornhaber [48] examined the reciprocal effects among the generations in a multigenerational family. Findings
demonstrated that the relationship between grandparent and grandchild was ranked as second in importance
(ahead of sibling relationships). Carter and McGoldrick [49] discussed the lifecycle of the individual in relation
to both the nuclear family and the multigenerational family: they described a dynamic web of relationships,
which has an effect on, and is affected byall of its members, in ways that are much more penetrating than mere
ethnicity, religion, and habits. Rather, this web of reciprocal relationships affects perceptions, attitudes, values,
and moral codes. According to the authors of said study, this is, in fact, the essence of intergenerational transfe-
rence.
Another way to comprehend the findings of the current study is through an analogy with intergenerational
transference of trauma. In this type of transference, mental distress is experienced through one’s long-term rela-
tionship with an individual who had been directly affected by a traumatic event [50] [51]. In other words, even
indirect exposure to an event can lead to changes in the person who is close to the injured party. The person who
is closely related to the injured party develops symptoms of trauma as a result of exposure to the manifestations
of trauma demonstrated by the injured party. Given the emotional involvement between the two individuals, the
relative’s reaction to this exposure is secondary traumatization. In intergenerational transmission, any expe-
riences, crises, or traumas that have remained unprocessed in the parent generation are transmitted to the child-
ren in an uncontrolled and subconscious manner [52] [53]. When intergenerational transmission occurs, the
child functions as a receptacle for the parents anxieties and pain; however, despite the fact that the term relates
to the transmission of experiences from negative life events, it may be assumed that the mechanism can work
also in the transmission of positive experiences and coping methods. The parent’s manners and strategies for
P. Ron, M. Rovner
168
coping are transmitted to the child, as are the parent’s perceptions and worldview. In cases where trauma was
transmitted from one generation to the next, it is possible that similar coping strategies would have developed in
each of the generations [51] [54].
An additional interesting finding that emerged from the current study was the absence of a significant correla-
tion between the generational factor and the average scores for the emotion-focused coping strategy in relation
to the three personal resources, in any of the three generations. As previously noted by Lazarus and Folkman [5],
problem-focused coping is more frequently used in situations of distress in which the individual considers the
stressful event to be under one’s control, whereas emotion-focused coping is more frequently found in situations
in which the individual feels that the source of stress is not within one’s control. An efficient coping strategy
consists in exerting effort to reduce the physiological and psychological distress and preserve one’s social func-
tioning [55]. According to the professional literature, it appears that problem-focused coping is a more efficient
strategy: it reduces negative emotional reactions and improves one’s ability to cope with and one’s perception of
the event [19] [56].
In stressful situations and in crises, coping is likely to be affected by the various resources that the individual
uses [24]. The theory of resilience claims that people have strengths and resources, which they use for self-
protection and which assist them in coping with various situations [57] [58]. The current study focused on the
personal resources of self-esteem, sense of mastery, and humor, which have been recognized in the professional
literature as significant factors when coping with situations of stress and crisis. Findings of the study indicated a
positive correlation between the level of self-esteem and the problem-focused coping strategy in the generations
of the parents and of the grandchildren, whereas a negative correlation was found in these generations between
self-esteem and the emotion focused coping strategy. These findings substantiate those of Thoitsstudy [16],
which found a positive correlation between self-esteem and the problem-focused coping strategy in a context
that required coping with crisis. Additional studies have shown that the resource of self-esteem acts as a mediat-
ing factor between the selected coping strategy and the effects of the stressful event or crisis. It is possible that
self-esteem inhibits any further development of the stress factor, by affecting the selection of strategies used for
coping [59] [60].
The current study also found a positive correlation between sense of mastery and the problem-focused coping
strategy among the three generations. It appears that the very belief that we are able to control various events in
our lives, particularly those which we view as negative, reduces the effects of these events, even if we take no
actual steps to control them [19]. These findings coincide with those of other studies, which found that sense of
mastery is related to the problem-focused coping strategy [24] [61].
The study had several limitations, among them the sampling method, which obviously has implications for the
generalizability of the findings. The study was based on a sample of students who were asked to select one par-
ent and one grandparent, and to provide their responses without relating to the other parent or any of the other
grandparents. On the one hand, it may seem that these findings are unusual given the clearly subjective manner
of participant recruitment; however, it is also possible that selecting one parent and not the other indicates an a
priori ideological affinity or similar perceptions related to coping with crisis. An additional limitation is related
to the manner in which intergenerational transmission was measured. In the current study, statistical analyses
were used, rather than the specific tool for examining intergenerational transmission.
Finally, the current study relied on self-reporting tools that were not devoid of biases related to peer pressure
and reporting precision. The collected data could have been affected by people’s natural inclination to present
themselves in a positive light. Moreover, answers provided when completing the questionnaire in an unprotected
environment may not reflect real-time behaviors. Hence, additional research on this topic is recommended.
5. Conclusion
The results of the current study have significant implications for both the theoretical and practical views. The
study’s contribution to the theoretical dimension is the development of the termintergenerational transmission”
to other areas on one hand. On the other hand, this study establishes and strengthens the existing knowledge on
coping with stress and crisis. In the practical dimension, recognizing the phenomenon of intergenerational trans-
mission provides an important tool for healing as a part of treatment and extends the possibility to deal with
complex problems. In addition, it emphasizes the need to expand the awareness of the therapists about the impor-
tance and influence of the intergenerational transmission.
P. Ron, M. Rovner
169
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... A sense of mastery is the index of an individual's subjective feelings that he or she can effectively control significant events in life (Michinov 2005;Perlin and Schooler 1978;Ron and Rovner 2014). It is the perception of control underlying a relatively consistent feeling of being capable of changing or managing the environment to meet one's needs (Mental Health Information and Determinants for the European Level [MINDFUL] 2006). ...
... Previous studies have consistently found a link between sense of mastery and achievement behaviours, pointing out that low sense of mastery is linked to dysfunctional achievement behaviours such as dropping out of school (Falci 2011); physical and mental health (MINDFUL 2006;Pudrovuska et al. 2005). Sense of mastery mediates the relationship between chronic stressors and consequent outcomes and has also been found to create positive feelings leading to better approaches towards managing stressful situations (Ron and Rovner 2014). However, it is not known whether a sense of mastery mediates the relationship between irrational beliefs and self-esteem. ...
... This indicates that individuals may optimize their self-esteem if they are able to maintain high levels of mastery. The positive association of perceived mastery with self-esteem is in line with previous findings (Ron and Rovner 2014) which showed a positive link between self-esteem and perception of mastery. Believing that one is able to control negative events in one's life (sense of mastery) tends to affect how he/she views the situation, even when the situation cannot be controlled (Ron and Rovner 2014). ...
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... This issue is even more salient in the age of COVID-19 when every family member is highly involved in coping with the risk. According to Bowen's theory of family systems (Bowen, 1978), family members are all connected and interact with one another; thus, they are highly influenced by familial relationships (Ron & Rovner, 2014). Such connection and interaction, together with genetic components, bring similarities between family members not only to their personalities but also to their values and behavioral tendencies (Bouchard & Loehlin, 2001). ...
... Intergenerational transmission, which is taken as a mechanism for the family resemblance, also appears in crisis coping. Ron and Rovner (2014) demonstrated that problem-focused coping strategies and crisis perception could be transferred from grandparents to parents and from parents to grandchildren. In light of this notion, the current study attempts to examine whether family resemblance appears in the emergent and threatening situation of the COVID-19 pandemic. ...
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