How Do People Use Meaning to Cope? Clarifying the Meaning Making Construct

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Gilbert, Christina
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University of Guelph

When coping with a stressful event, some individuals attempt to alter the way in which the situation is understood or appraised. This is a form of coping known as meaning making. Meaning making has been referenced repeatedly in coping research literature, however, construct clarity is severely lacking as there is no consistency in terminology, theory, or measurement. This is problematic as it hinders researchers’ ability to interpret, understand, and apply the phenomenon. To address this gap, six individuals participated in in-depth semi-structured interviews to discuss their experience of using meaning to cope through a stressful event. Interpretive phenomenological analysis was used to examine how meaning was used throughout their coping process and how meaning contributed to the outcomes of their experience. Emergent themes were identified and compared to prior meaning making theories to discuss consistencies, discrepancies, and novel findings. Theoretical, methodological, and practical implications of the findings are discussed.

meaning making, coping, stress, construct clarification, IPA, meaning-focused coping