6 Scales to Measure Coping + The Brief Cope Inventory

coping scalesSometimes life seems to pile up all at once. We find ourselves trying to juggle a multitude of daily challenges, large and small, or unexpected events that send our anxiety or stress responses into a tailspin.

When this happens, it can be difficult to take a moment to check-in and see how we’re really coping. We might think we’re doing okay and participating in supportive behaviors, but how accurate is that really? And how do we reflect adequately to address where we might be indulging in behaviors that are counterintuitive to help us cope effectively?

As ever, positive psychology might hold the tools and resources that can help us. One type of resource you can tap into are scales for measuring coping.

Before you read on, we thought you might like to download our 3 Resilience Exercises for free. These engaging, science-based exercises will help you to effectively cope with difficult circumstances and give you the tools to improve the resilience of your clients, students or employees.

You can download the free PDF here.

What Do Coping Questionnaires Measure Exactly?

Coping questionnaires aim to measure your coping strategies and ability to self-regulate in response to different experienced stressors.

Perhaps when we’re trying to understand what coping questionnaires measure, a good place to start is by understanding what we mean by ‘coping.’ Different cognitive psychological theories have attempted to define coping. Lazarus and Folkman (1984) defined it as:

Constantly changing cognitive and behavioral efforts to manage specific external and/or internal demands that are appraised as taxing or exceeding the resources of the person.

Individual behaviors relating to coping can be challenging to measure, as we respond differently to the same type of stressor, depending on several different factors including our character traits, specific environment, support networks, and individual life experiences.

How we cope as individuals may also change as we develop, and just because we respond to one scenario in one way, doesn’t mean we’ll react to it the same way if it happens again.

Coping questionnaires are helping us to understand our coping strategies at any given moment towards different situations in our lives. Coping strategies can be positive, for example, tapping into your social support network, or negative, such as turning to alcohol or drugs.


A Look at the Reliability and Validity

Most of the research on coping is divided into exploring two key areas: coping styles or coping strategies. While they seem similar, there is a core distinction between the two:


Coping Styles

Coping style refers to your disposition towards handling challenging situations or stressors. Endler and Parker (1990) suggested that there are three basic coping styles: task-oriented, emotion-oriented, and avoidance-oriented. Your coping style may stay consistent across different situations and experiences, and the coping strategies you use within this may change and adapt.

Research into coping styles has received a fair amount of criticism. The main criticism is that that in focusing only on coping styles, the variability and complexity of coping efforts overall are not captured effectively, and stifles predictive validity within the research (Lazarus and Folkman, 1984).

The researchers argue that a better evaluation and validity can be developed by focusing on coping strategies within specific contexts, rather than how someone copes with stress generally.


Coping Strategies

Studies that use coping scales or measurements focused on measuring coping strategies for specific situations or stressors have been found to be more valid and reliable (Daniels and Harris, 2005, Lazarus and Folkman, 1984).

Greenaway et al. (2015) conducted a review of 6 different coping measures. They found that overall, these types of measures tended to have higher validity, but some tests had poorer test-retest reliability than others (specifically The Ways of Coping Questionnaire).

One of the main criticisms for the validity and reliability of coping scales and measures for coping strategies is that they ask participants to recall stressful experiences or respond to hypothetical situations that fail to measure ‘in the moment’ coping responses (Porter and Stone, 1996, Steptoe, 1989).

Overall, researchers agree there is some weakness to these measurements; however, they can still be a great tool and resource. Greenaway et al. (2015) summarised that low to moderate inconsistencies with coping measures should not deter their use, but that researchers need to be rigorous in selecting the scales or questionnaires they use with their particular participant groups.


The COPE Inventory

The COPE inventory was created by Carver (1989). It is a multi-dimensional inventory developed to asses the different coping strategies people use in response to stress. COPE stands for Coping Orientation to Problems Experienced.

The inventory is a list of statements that participants review and score. There are two main components to the COPE inventory: problem-focused coping and emotion-focused coping.

Five scales aim to measure each of these:

Problem-focused coping

  1. Active Coping
  2. Planning
  3. Suppression of Competing Activities
  4. Restraint Coping
  5. Seeking of Instrumental Social Support

Example statements from the inventory include ‘I concentrate my efforts on doing something about it’ and ‘I take additional action to try to get rid of the problem.’

Emotion-focused coping

  1. Seeking of Emotional Social Support
  2. Positive Reinterpretation
  3. Acceptance
  4. Denial
  5. Turning to Religion

Example statements from the inventory include ‘I discuss my feelings with someone’ and ‘I seek God’s help.’

It also contains three scales aimed at measuring coping responses:

  1. Focus on and Venting of Emotions
  2. Behavioral Disengagement
  3. Mental Disengagement

Example statements from the inventory include ‘I get upset and let my emotions out’ and ‘I get upset, and am really aware of it.’


How Does Scoring Work?

To score the COPE Inventory, you need to first respond to each of the statements with a score from 1 to 4, as follows:

1 = I usually don’t do this at all
2 = I usually do this a little bit
3 = I usually do this a medium amount
4 = I usually do this a lot

Each statement in the inventory is then connected to a specific coping strategy that sits under either the problem-focused, emotion-focused, or coping response measures. Your scores will inform you which form of coping strategy you are more engaged in.

For example, Active Coping in the inventory is measured with the following four statements:

  • I concentrate my efforts on doing something about it.
  • I take additional action to try to get rid of the problem.
  • I take direct action to get around the problem.
  • I do what has to be done, one step at a time.

If you were to give these statements higher scores – such as a 3 or 4 – you would score highly as using Active Coping as one of your coping strategies. If you scored low – with a 1 or 2 – then Active Coping would not be one of your core coping strategies.

This scoring can help you ascertain which measures are your most reliable coping strategies from the different ones utilized in the inventory.

Access a full copy of the COPE Inventory, including scoring.


The Carver Brief COPE Inventory (+PDF)

One of the challenges and criticisms of the COPE Inventory was its length. The Brief COPE Inventory was adapted by Carver (1997) and is an abbreviated version of the full COPE Inventory.

The Brief COPE Inventory consists of only 28 statements, across two scales, and is more focused on understanding the frequency with which people use different coping strategies in response to various stressors. Participants using the inventory, score themselves from 1 to 4 with 1 being ‘I haven’t been doing this at all’ and 4 being ‘I’ve been doing this a lot.

Statements from the scale include things like:

  • I’ve been turning to work or other activities to take my mind off things.
  • I’ve been concentrating my efforts on doing something about the situation I’m in.
  • I’ve been saying to myself, “this isn’t real.”

Download the full Brief Cope Inventory and scoring instructions.


The Coping Self-Efficacy Scale (CSES)

Similar to the COPE Inventory, the Coping Self-Efficacy Scale (CSES) was created to measure an individual’s confidence in their coping strategies when it comes to handling challenges and stressors.

It was authored by Chesney et al. (2006) in partnership with Dr. Albert Bandura from Stanford University and initially developed for use with staff and patients at the Center for AIDS Prevention Studies at the University of California, San Francisco.

The CSES contains 26 items which are prefaced by the statement ‘When things aren’t going well for you, or when you’re having problems, how confident are you that you can do the following.’

Example statements include things like:

  • Make new friends.
  • Do something positive for yourself when you are feeling discouraged.
  • Make unpleasant thoughts go away.
  • Think about one part of the problem at a time.


How Does Scoring Work?

Participants using the scale are asked to give each of the 26 statements a personal score from 0 to 10 as follows:

0 = Cannot do at all
5 = Moderately confident I can do
10 = Certain I can do

A final score is created by summing all of the individual scores. A higher score indicates a high level of self-efficacy when it comes to implementing positive coping strategies. A lower score indicates a lower level of self-efficacy.

If you are interested in obtaining a copy of the scale, please email the author, Dr. Margaret Chesney to request permission at margaret.chesney@ucsf.edu.


The Brief Resilient Coping Scale (BRCS)

The Brief Resilient Coping Scale (BRCS) is an even shorter measure of resilient coping, designed by Sinclair and Walston (2004), to capture an individual’s ability to cope with stress in highly adaptive ways.

When the researchers say brief – they mean brief! The measure contains only four statements, that participants rate from 1 (Does not describe me at all) to 5 (Describes me very well).

After giving each of the four statements a score, participants sum up their responses for a final score. A high score – between 17 and 20 – indicates that you are a highly resilient coper, and a low score – between 4 and 13 – suggests that you are a low resilient coper.

Access the Brief Resilient Coping Scale, including scoring.


The Proactive Coping Inventory (PCI)

The Proactive Coping Inventory (PCI) was developed by Greenglass and Schwarzer (1998). The PCI was created to measure different proactive approaches to coping and contains seven subscales to achieve this:

  1. Proactive Coping
  2. Preventive Coping
  3. Reflective Coping
  4. Strategic Planning
  5. Instrumental Support Seeking
  6. Emotional Support Seeking
  7. Avoidance Coping

There are 55 statements in total in the inventory, and participants are asked to give each statement a score between 1 (Not at all true) and 4 (Completely true). Example statements include:

  • I like challenges and beating the odds.
  • I visualize my dreams and try to achieve them.
  • Despite numerous setbacks, I usually succeed in getting what I want.
  • I try to pinpoint what I need to succeed.

The statements are grouped by the subscale they relate to (so the examples above all relate to the Proactive Coping subscale) and then totals are used to ascertain which subscales of coping you use the most.

Access the full Proactive Coping Inventory, including scoring.


The Dyadic Coping Inventory (DCI)

The Dyadic Coping Inventory (DCI) was created by Bodenmann (2008) and is slightly different from the other scales mentioned in this article in that it was specifically developed to be used within close relationships, for when one or both partners are experiencing stress.

It contains 37 statements that aim to measure communication and dyadic coping. Dyadic coping relates closely to partners in close relationships and strategies include:

  • Supportive
  • Delegated
  • Negative
  • Joint

Dyadic coping also involves:

  1. One partner’s attempt to reduce the stress of the other partner.
  2. A joint effort from both partners to deal with stress that may impact their relationship.

The DCI contains six subscales that ask each person to reflect on how they communicate stress to their partner, how their partner responds, how their partner communicates they are stressed, how they react to their partner’s stress, how they behave when both partners are stressed, and how you cope as a couple.

Example statements include:

  • When my partner feels he/she has too much to do, I help him/her out.
  • When my partner is stressed, I tend to withdraw.
  • We help one another to put the problem in perspective and see it in a new light.

Each statement is given a score between 1 (Very rarely) and 4 (Very often). Higher scores reflect higher dyadic coping for each of the subscales.

Access to the full Dyadic Coping Inventory, including scoring instructions.


A Take-Home Message

This is only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to coping scales and questionnaires! There have been many more developed that aim to provide insights for specific challenges and stressors that may be experienced by individuals, as well as scales that can be used with different groups – including young children and teenagers.

If there’s one thing I’d like you to take away from this article, it’s that our coping strategies and styles can develop and change over time, as we grow, learn and develop through our experiences.

Coping scales are a great way to understand further your ways of coping at one point in time, and should be revisited often so you can develop an on-going relationship with your coping styles and reflect on how you might be able to improve.

Have you used any coping scales or questionnaires yourself? I’d love to hear about your personal experiences in the comments.

We hope you found this article useful. Don’t forget to download our 3 Resilience Exercises for free.

If you wish to learn more, our Realizing Resilience Masterclass© is a complete, science-based, 6-module resilience training template for practitioners that contains all the materials you’ll need to help your clients overcome adversity in a more resilient way.

  • Bodenmann, G. (2008). Dyadisches Coping Inventar: Testmanual [Dyadic Coping Inventory: Test manual]. Bern, Switzerland: Huber.
  • Carver, C. (1989).
  • Carver, C. (1997). You want to measure coping but your protocol’s too long: Consider the brief COPE. International Journal of Behavioural Medicine, 4
  • Chesney, M. A., Neilands, T. B., Chambers, D. B., Taylor, J. M., Folkman, S. (2006). A validity and reliability study of the coping self-efficacy scale. Retrieved from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1602207/
  • Endler, N. S., & Parker, J. D. A. (1990). Multidimensional assessment of coping: A critical evaluation. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 58.
  • Daniels, K., and Harris, C. (2005). A daily diary study of coping in the context of job demands-control-support model. Journal of Vocational Behavior, 66.
  • Greenaway, K., Louis, W. R., Parker, S. L., & Kalokerinos, E. (2015). Measures of Coping for Psychological Well-Being. Retrieved from: https://www.researchgate.net/publication/282566883_Measures_of_Coping_for_Psychological_Well-Being
  • Greenglass, E. & Schwarzer, R. (1998). The Proactive Coping Inventory (PCI). In R. Schwarzer (Ed.), Advances in health psychology research (CD-ROM). Berlin: Free University of Berlin.
  • Lazarus, R., & Folkman, S. (1984). Stress, appraisal, and coping. New York: Springer.
  • Porter, L. & Stone, A. (1996). An approach to assessing daily coping. In Zeidner, M. and Endler, N. (Eds). Handbook of Coping: Theory, Research, and Applications. Oxford, UK.
  • Sinclair, V. G., & Wallston, K.A. (2004). The development and psychometric evaluation of the Brief Resilient Coping Scale. Retrieved from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/14994958
  • Steptoe, A. (1989). An abbreviated version of the Miller Behavioral Style Scale. British Journal of Clinical Psychology, 28.

About the Author

Elaine Mead, BSc. Dual Honours, is a counselor, passionate educator, writer, and learner. Since completing her degree in psychology, she has been fascinated by the different ways we learn - both socially and academically - and the ways in which we utilize our experiences to become more authentic versions of our selves. She is currently completing her diploma in Cognitive Behavioural Coaching & Mentoring.


  1. Joseph Bahian Abang

    Greetings of peace and joy from the Philippines. My name is Joseph B. Abang, a registered nurse by profession but a teacher by practice since I embarked on teaching as my field. Currently, I am in the process of creating my Thesis proposal about AGING RETIREMENT PLAN AND COPING APPROACHES AMONG NURSES IN THE ACADEME AND HOSPITALS here in Cagayan de Oro City. It is so fortunate that I found your tool online and quite interested in using it as part of my instrument in the conduct of my study. I am sending this letter of permission to use this tool in my study. Hoping for a positive response regarding this request. Thank you very much and MABUHAY!

    • Nicole Celestine

      Hi Joseph,

      Glad you found this post helpful! The Brief Cope inventory is freely available to use and can be accessed here. But if you’re after a different scale, let me know which one and I can hopefully point you in the right direction 🙂

      – Nicole | Community Manager

  2. Jasmine de Leon

    Good day.

    I am an undergraduate student from San Pedro College. My team and I are currently conducting our research entitled “the study habits and coping strategies among level 2 and level 3 student nurses during their Online related learning experience”.

    I am writing this letter to ask for your permission to use the brief COPE questionnaire for our survey instrument tool.

    I am hoping for your response.
    Thank you.

    • Nicole Celestine

      Hi Jasmine,

      The Brief COPE inventory is freely available for use and can be accessed here.

      Hope this helps, and best of luck with your research.

      – Nicole | Community Manager

  3. Jennifer Serrano

    Dear madam,
    I am an undergraduate student of Ph D in Clinical Psychology at University of Santo Tomas-Manila, Philippines. I am conducting research for my dissertation on Examining the Problematic Internet Use amongst Filipino University Students: A Model Building Initiative on Coping with Psychological Distress.

    In this regard, I am intending to use the Brief COPE Inventory together with the Kessler Psychological Distress Scale as my measuring instruments for my study with your permission.

    Thank you and God bless.

    Respectfully yours,
    Jennifer Serrano,RGC, RPm

    • Nicole Celestine

      Hi Jennifer,

      The Brief COPE inventory is freely available for use and can be accessed here.

      Hope this helps, and best of luck with your research.

      – Nicole | Community Manager

  4. Irfana Shabry

    Dear madam,
    I am an undergraduate student of BSC Psychology at University of west London. I am conducting research for my dissertation on Perceived stress, Quality of life and coping strategies among the caregivers of children with physical and mental impairments.

    I am intending on using the Brief COPE Inventory together with the perceived Stress Scale and WHO QOF brief version as my measuring instruments for my study.

    I am writing to you to obtain permission to use the Brief COPE Inventory. Please be good enough to grant me permission for the same.

    Thanking you very much in advance
    Best Regard
    Irfana Shabry

    • Nicole Celestine

      Hi Irfana,

      The Brief COPE inventory is freely available for use and can be accessed here.

      Hope this helps, and best of luck with your research.

      – Nicole | Community Manager

  5. Anushka jain

    The article was really very helpful.😁😁
    But could i get access to coping self effecacy scale.

    • Nicole Celestine

      Hi Anushka,

      Glad you found the article helpful. If you are interested in obtaining a copy of the Coping Self-efficacy Scale, please email the author, Dr. Margaret Chesney, to request permission at margaret.chesney@ucsf.edu.

      – Nicole | Community Manager

  6. Claudia Blaess

    Great article and very useful scales! Are they free to use for students? I’m doing my degree in Psychology and would like to focus on differences between introverts and extraverts in how they cope with stressful or problematic situations. Thank you. Claudia

    • Nicole Celestine

      Hi Claudia,

      Yes, all scales can be used for free. You will find the links to each at the end of the respective sub-sections. Just ensure that you cite the creators in your research.

      – Nicole | Community Manager

      • Claudia Blaess

        Perfect, thank you! 🙂

  7. Roxanne Mangalindan

    Good Day Mam! I’m currently working on my Masteral Thesis right now, and I would like to ask for your permission to use Cope Inventory as one of my tools in my study.

    for your advise,

    • Nicole Celestine

      Hi Roxanne,

      You can access the Carver Brief COPE Inventory here (and by clicking Access Measure at the bottom of the page). Just ensure you cite the creator(s)in your research.

      – Nicole Community Manager

  8. Gemmalyn M. Navarro

    Good evening maam, I am Gemmalyn M. Navarro a PhD student and currently working on my dissertation, i would like to ask permission from you, if i could utilize the tool on Brief Coping Mechanism as my instrument in my study. Hoping for your favorable response on this request. thank you and God bless

    • Nicole Celestine

      Hi Gemmalyn,

      Thank you for reading. The inventory is available to use for free (just ensure you cite the authors in your research). You can access it here (and by clicking Access Measure at the bottom of the page).

      – Nicole Community Manager

  9. Priya Gupta

    Hello ma’am
    We BSC Nursing Intern students from college of nursing ,Dr Ram Manohar Lohia Hospital New Delhi, India want permission to use your research tool i.e Brief COPE for our research study that is “ *A descriptive study to assess the psychological impact and coping strategies of health care professionals (HCPs) during the outbreak of Novel Corona Virus disease 2019 (COVID 19) at COVID 19 dedicated hospitals of New Delhi*”.
    Kindly give us the permission for same

    • Nicole Celestine

      Hi Priya,

      Thank you for reading. The inventory is available to use for free (just ensure you cite the authors in your research). You can access it here (and by clicking Access Measure at the bottom of the page).

      – Nicole Community Manager

  10. ola

    Oh my God… this article sooooo usefull.. thank you so much to share

  11. Ruth Sparks

    Thanks very much for your comprehensive article on coping scales–How about another article on how to evaluate how people are coping with covid quarantining, school challenges, politics. Coping is a fascinating topic!

    • Nicole Celestine

      Hi Ruth,
      So glad you enjoyed the post, and thank you for the great suggestion! I’ll be sure to pass this on to our editing team. 🙂
      – Nicole | Community Manager

  12. Ali

    I am a behavior analyst and I found this article incredibly helpful. I primarily work with children and was wondering if there is a coping scale you prefer for children.

    • Nicole Celestine

      Hi Ali,
      Glad you found the article helpful, and good question! I’d suggest checking out this scale by Brodzinsky et al. and seeing whether it’s the kind of thing you’re looking for.
      – Nicole | Community Manager

  13. Amreen Naseem

    i want brief cope inventory for research purpose pls provide me if anyone have?

    • Nicole Celestine

      Hi Amreen,
      You can access the Carver Brief COPE Inventory here (and by clicking Access Measure at the bottom of the page).
      – Nicole Community Manager

    • munazza

      hy, i need it too… did you get it? please tell or share, ill be very thankful

  14. Eileen

    Good day.
    I wish to use the COPE inventory, however the link or site seems to appear not working (error) therefore I would like to respectfully ask to use the COPE Inventory.
    Thank you!

    • Nicole Celestine, Community Manager

      Hi Eileen,
      I’m sorry to hear you had trouble accessing the inventory. Try visiting this link, and you will find a file called ‘Scale and Instructions’ that you can download toward the bottom of the page (in the meantime, I’ll pass word of this error on to our editing team).
      – Nicole | Community Manager

  15. Mary Care

    Good day!
    I am Mary Care Catubay, a guidance advocate of Jose Rizal Memorial State University in Dapitan City Philippines. I would like to ask permission to use the Brief Resilient Coping Scale (BRCS). This will be disseminated to our students as part of our intake interview for the incoming school year 2020-2021 in the Guidance Office. Hoping for a positive response regarding this matter.
    Thank you and God bless.
    Respectfully yours,
    Mary Care R. Catubay, RPm
    Guidance Advocate

    • Nicole Celestine

      Hi Mary,
      The scale is freely available to download and use. You can find the items and all the information about its validation in the paper at this link.
      – Nicole | Community Manager

  16. Cinu

    Superb….. very much helpful…tnx

  17. Shabnam

    Mam, may I use brief coping residence scale and coping self efficiency scale in my research on covid

    • Nicole Celestine

      Hi Shabnam,
      Of course! Just ensure that you cite the original authors in any published research. 🙂 Best of luck with your project.
      – Nicole | Community Manager

  18. Qyla

    Hi. Can i have a the COPE inventory? due to link cannot be open and shows error.
    Thank you.

    • Nicole Celestine

      Hi Qyla,
      I believe this link has been fixed. You can find the inventory here.
      – Nicole | Community Manager

  19. Oka Ivan

    Hi Elaine,
    The link for the Dyadic Coping Inventory does not seem to be working. When the link was opened, it show The Proactive Coping Inventory’s file.

    • Annelé Venter

      Hi Oka
      Thank you for bringing this to our attention. Please try again, it should take you to the correct document now.

  20. Karthikeyan D

    This is karthik M.phil Clinical Social Work Student from Chennai, now I plan to do my research in Nephrology domain. my topic is “A Mediating Effect Of Coping Skills Between Personality Traits And Health Related Quality Of Life Of Patients Of Chronic Kidney Disease” please help me which one the COPE scale would be much relevant for my topic.

  21. chien yin

    hi, can i have the Carver Brief COPE in pdf form? i need it for my research

  22. i wayan suardana

    hi friend i’m wayan from Bali indonesia, need some help to looking for the true of PFC dan EFC. would you like to help me.

    • i wayan suardana

      i mean true quisitionaire of PFcC and EFC

    • Annelé Venter

      Hi Wayan
      Could you perhaps elaborate so I can see how to assist?

  23. Jolene Mui

    Hi, I have problem to open the link `Brief Resilient Coping Scale`. For your kind help please.

    • Annelé Venter

      Hi Jolene,
      I have just clicked the link and all seems to be working fine – can you try again and let me know what exactly happens on your side?

  24. Juvaria Akbar

    Hi Elaine Mead
    i am facing problem in opening “Brief Cope Inventory”
    kindly send me full Inventory with its scoring instru tions.
    I will be gratefull to you.

  25. Sushma Prasad

    Plz give me instructions how I can use Carver’s cope inventory in research and do interpretation plz reply in my email address thank you

  26. Debbie McJimsey

    The link for the Dyadic Coping Inventory does not seem to be working.

    • Elaine Mead

      Hi Debbie,
      I have just clicked the link and all seems to be working fine – can you try again and let me know if it still doesn’t work for you?

      • Fatehhh

        hye. i have problem to open link the Carver Brief COPE Inventory (+PDF). could you please recheck for me.
        thank you so much!

  27. Christine

    I practice as a social emotional wellbeing counsellor within a Aboriginal Medical Centre . I am a Australian Aboriginal mature age woman who loves to learn.

    • Elaine Mead

      Hi Christine,
      Thanks for your comments and being a part of our community – it’s great to have you hear! Sounds like you have an exceptionally rewarding role.
      Kind regards,

  28. Kevin Scott

    A terrific article that provides insights and, for me at least, a clearer understanding of coping and the ways to provide support and assistance, along with the tools that enable that to happen.

    • Elaine Mead

      Hi Kevin,
      Thanks so much for your positive feedback – so pleased the article resonated with you and benefitted your personal knowledge!
      Thanks again for contributing to the community.
      kind regards,


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