Date of Award

Fall 2020

Project Type


Program or Major


Degree Name

Master of Arts

First Advisor

Karen Van Gundy


Although there is a considerable body of literature examining mental and physical health outcomes among adolescents and adults, there is less research that focuses on emerging adulthood and how emerging adults - especially within a rural context – experience mental and physical health. Furthermore, less is known regarding how or if gender impacts the relationships between coping style and outcomes among this population. Studies historically show that women report higher rates of anxiety, depressed mood, and chronically debilitating physical illnesses than men. The differences in rates of disorders between men and women is often explained by citing traditional gender roles; psychological and physical stress results when these gender roles and identities are faced with threats, demands, constraints and challenges – or chronic strain. Gender socialization and traditional gender roles also play a part in how men and women may employ different coping styles to manage chronic strain. However, there has been little research regarding gender differences in coping among a rural, emerging adult sample. To address the gaps in research, this thesis uses data collected from emerging adults in a rural New Hampshire county. I find that among the rural emerging adult sample, men and women report similar levels of depressed mood while females report higher levels of both anxiety and physical illness. Men and women report similar levels of chronic strain, and report using problem-focused and avoidance-oriented coping at similar rates. Women report using emotion-focused coping and religious-coping more frequently than their men counterparts. However, gender does not moderate the relationship between each coping style and each outcome. Avoidance-oriented coping is significantly and positively associated with depressed mood, anxiety, and physical illness suggesting the use of avoidance-oriented coping increases one’s risk of those outcomes. However, the interaction between avoidance-oriented coping and chronic strain shows significant buffering effects; that is, the effect of chronic strain on depressed mood and anxiety is weaker among those who report using avoidance-oriented coping with high frequency. These findings have implications for how rural health and mental health policies address coping and chronic strain among emerging adults.