Document Type


Date of Original Version



Human Development and Family Studies


Children with asthma living in urban environments are at risk for experiencing anxiety by virtue of both social context and health-related stressors. Although the use of active coping strategies is generally associated with more optimal psychosocial functioning, there is evidence that active coping is less helpful in response to uncontrollable or severe stress. Expectations that one can fix a problem that is uncontrollable or insurmountable may create distress. Problem-solving efficacy was examined as a moderator of the association between stress and anxiety among children residing in inner-city neighborhoods. It was hypothesized that children's perceptions of high problem-solving efficacy would exacerbate their vulnerability to stress. Forty-five parent–child dyads were recruited from urban community health centers. Most participants were members of ethnic minority groups. Hierarchical multiple regression analyses revealed main effects of asthma-related stress and life stress on children's anxiety. However, these effects were moderated by problem-solving efficacy. Asthma-related stress and life stress were positively associated with anxiety only for children who had the highest levels of problem-solving efficacy. In other words, positive expectations about the ability to solve problems functioned as a liability for highly stressed children. Implications for psychosocial interventions with at-risk children are discussed.