Remember back in high school, middle school, or elementary school when you were worried to go to school because your jeans weren’t Levis, or Jordache, or Lucky, or whatever name brand was popular when you were an adolescent? A couple of researchers from Paris decided that they were going to take a closer look at this phenomenon. That is, how we coped (or cope) with being criticized for not wearing the ‘right’ clothes.
Their results revealed that we have five main coping strategies for these situations: justification, revenge, denial, self-reproach, and making the criticizers feel guilty. Can you remember how you reacted (or might have reacted) if you were in one of these situations? Personally, I have a hard time remembering what I might have said (or did say), so let’s take a look at some of the responses.
I tell them why I bought this particular brand.
I justify my choice, explaining why I picked this brand, the circumstances of my purchase, etc.
I explain what are the reasons that pushed me to make this brand choice in particular.
I no longer bother to criticize their clothes.
I try to get my own back by criticizing their clothes.
From now on I’ll carefully take note of how they look and won’t hold back from criticizing it.
I act as if I hadn’t heard what they said.
I act is if nothing’s been said. [sic]
I imagine that they haven’t said anything and that’s enough to fix the problem.
I bear a grudge against myself: why did I choose this jeans’ brand? It’s rubbish!
I think that I wouldn’t have to buy an unknown brand for my friends.
In making the criticizers feel guilty:
I tell them it’s not cool to criticize people about their appearance.
I tell them it’s not very nice for one’s friends to make comments like that.
After reading the responses under the five strategies, do you think adolescents would be more inclined to use one strategy over the other? What about in girls vs. boys? It turns, that’s the case.
The researchers found that the emotion-centered coping strategies (denial and self-reproach) were the strategies that were mostly influenced by “perceived controllability,” which is, “evaluation of the capacity people believe they have to do or not do something when confronted with a situation.” This runs opposite to previous theories, with regard to coping and so the researchers advocated caution when examining coping strategies from the perspective of major dimensions and that more care should be taken to include context.
One last piece that I found interesting were the differences between boys and girls. That is, the researchers found that girls, more than boys, were more likely to make the criticizers feel guilty. This made me wonder about this whole idea of girls developing emotionally before boys and that girls are more empathetic. I wonder if we looked at boys when they reached the same “level of maturity,” would they begin using this last coping strategy more than the others?
More than this, though, I wonder about the cultural effects on coping strategies. I continuously refer back to the documentary Miss Representation and its soon-to-be released brother, The Mask You Live In. The perspectives presented in those documentaries highlight the importance of culture and media on our youth, too. Maybe our adolescents wouldn’t have to develop coping strategies for combatting criticism about their clothing, if kids didn’t even think it was “cool” to criticize someone for the clothes they wear.
Sarah Benmoyal-Bouzaglo, & Denis Guiot (2013). The coping strategies used by teenagers criticized by their peers for their brand choice Recherche et Applications en Marketing DOI: 10.1177/2051570713487478