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The Gerontologist 47:42-51 (2007)
© 2007 The Gerontological Society of America

Effects of an Intervention Promoting Proactive Coping Competencies in Middle and Late Adulthood

Christina Bode1,2,, Denise T. D. de Ridder1, Roeline G. Kuijer1 and Jozien M. Bensing1

Correspondence: Address correspondence to Christina Bode, University of Twente, Department of Psychology and Communication of Health and Risk, P.O. Box 217, 7500 AE Enschede, The Netherlands. E-mail: c.bode{at}

Purpose: We tested the effectiveness of a brief educational program that is based on proactive coping theory. The program entails a four-session group intervention for people aged between 50 and 75 years and was intended to improve proactive coping competencies. Furthermore, we investigated the positive as well as negative side effects and differential effectiveness of the program. Design and Methods: A total of 158 middle aged and older men and women participated in the study. In a prospective randomized control trial with an experimental group and a waiting control group, we collected questionnaire data at three points (baseline, after completion of the program, and 3 months postintervention). Results: The program improved proactive coping competencies significantly. Three months after completion of the intervention, these results remained stable. Nearly all effect sizes in the experimental group were medium or higher. The program did not have negative side effects in terms of worrying or negative mood, and it did not change levels of self-efficacy. Demographic characteristics of participants did not predict changes in proactive competencies. Differential effectiveness could only be shown for a few psychological characteristics: Lower levels of well-being, higher levels of proactive orientation, and lower levels in the consideration of future consequences of one's own behavior predicted an increase in proactive coping competencies. Participants who formulated personal goals in concrete terms also profited more from the intervention. Implications: Conceptualizing proactive coping as a set of competencies allows the translation of this approach into interventions. Competencies that facilitate future-oriented self-regulation can be improved by a brief educational program in middle and late adulthood.

Key Words: Proactive coping • Future self-regulation • Successful aging • Intervention • RCT design • Middle and late adulthood

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