Family Coping With Stressful Events and Transitions


Before analyzing the stages of the crisis and using the Double ABC-X Model, it is necessary to describe a hypothetical stressful family situation. There is a dual-earning married couple with two children who are seven and ten years old. Just like many other families, this one has been greatly impacted by the Covid-19 pandemic. The husband is a self-employed photographer who has a number of regular clients, and the wife is a sales representative for a food distributing company. Both parents have been restricted to working from home while juggling the care and education of their children since schools have closed their doors and implemented an e-learning format.


The current family situation is challenging and stressful in itself. However, the main stressor is the fact that one of the two parents, the husband, has just been hospitalized and tested positive for Covid-19. Though his condition is not dangerous and severe, he has to stay at the hospital for an extended period of time. Now, the wife is left alone with two children who require constant care and attention, as well as financial resources.

Existing Resources

It is hard to disagree that not every stressful situation may be managed. However, they are easier to be addressed if there are certain sources available for the person. They can affect or moderate the stressor event’s influence and may include certain abilities, characteristics, and traits of family members, the attitude of the community, and the family system (Magness, n.d.). Fortunately, this particular family has several resources that will help respond to the event. First of all, there is strong support from the government, hospital, friends, and relatives of both wife and husband. Care, attention, and help from other people may easily make a stressful situation better. Then, the family members are cohesive, adaptable, supportive, and brave. In addition, spouses love each other and live in harmony.

Perception of Stressor

A wrong or negative perception of stressors may influence the whole situation in a bad way. Thereby, it is of vital importance to stay calm and see the true picture and the possible positive outcomes (Rosino, 2016). Of course, the family is under huge stress because the husband and father are hospitalized, and there is a chance that he might have infected other members of the family. However, the spouses are adults who know how to cope with severe threats and that they are able to overcome and solve any problems. Moreover, they are ready to take responsibility for their children, and the wife knows that it is her task now to take care of their kids. Finally, the family sees this issue as a challenge that will make them even stronger and prove that there is true love between them. Thus, they are worried, but their perception of the stressor is quite adequate.


After the stressor appears and the pre-crisis phase is finished, comes the crisis itself. Now, the situation is rather challenging and stressful for the wife. First, she has to work way much harder in order to feed her children and save money for medicine that her husband may need after being released from the hospital. Moreover, the wife realizes that at first, he will not be able to work, and she will need to continue supporting her family on her own for an indefinite amount of time. She is tired of work and under great stress because of the uncertainty of the future. Finally, the wife worries that some of the members or friends of the family might have been infected by her husband.


Postcrisis is a rather significant stage of stress experience and crisis. It consists of several phases that are important to be experienced in order to successfully go through the final stage – adaptation (Joseph et al., 2014). These phases are the stress pile up, existing and new resources, the perception of precrisis, coping, and adaptation (Lavee et al., 1985). These stages will be analyzed and discussed in terms of the particular situation mentioned above.


Pileup may be considered the first stage of coping and the beginning of the way to adaptation. Researchers note that it is the clustering of stressor events (Price et al., 2017). In other words, a stress pileup happens because isolated events are being added to accumulated stressors. In this particular family, there is an ambiguous loss. The father and husband is physically absent but still part of the family. He is in hospital and cannot be with his beloved ones. Moreover, due to his disease, COVID-19, it is impossible for the wife and the children to visit him in order to make sure that everything is fine and feel the unity of their family. As for the father, he is under great stress, too, because he must stay at the hospital and experience separation and fear for himself and his beloved ones. This situation blocks normal grieving and adjustment for all family members and increases stress.

Existing and New Resources

In the Double ABCX Model, there are existing and new resources available at the post-crisis stage. As mentioned above, the existing resources included the family members’ traits of character and the support of friends and the government. The new resources are those that develop in order to help with coping with the initial crisis (Weber, 2011). They may include community groups and clubs, new families and friends, reallocated responsibilities and roles, increased self-sufficiency and self-esteem, and educational opportunities. As for the particular family, it also develops new and rather useful resources. For instance, the responsibilities are reallocated: the mother now has to work harder, the father needs to recover as soon as possible, and the grandparents are helping with the children and household chores. Then, the husband’s self-sufficiency and self-esteem have increased as he realized that he is essential for his family. The wife has got new friends and supporters from those people who are worried about the family’s situation.

Perception of Precrisis

Another quite essential stage that has a great influence on the crisis’s outcome is the perception of precrisis. It is the way how the family defines the crisis, pileup, and existing and new resources (Pickard & Ingersoll, 2017). In this particular family, this perception is rather positive since they refer to the whole situation as to a challenge and a great though not easy opportunity to test themselves.


Researchers note that the way a family copes with the crisis affects how well it adapts. The wife from the described family copes by assuming a stronger leadership role in her house, spending more time with the children, and encouraging other family members and friends to express their feelings. In addition, knowing that now she is almost the only hope for the children makes her much stronger.


Adaptation is an outcome resulting from various changes in the family system. It needs to evolve and have long-term consequences including changes in family perceptions, patterns of interaction, rules, and roles. Moreover, returning to a pre-stress family state in order to find balance and equilibrium is not necessary. All family members need to find their own balance in order to achieve the positive end of the situation. For example, the husband will recover and go back to his job, and the wife will have some rest and understand that she is capable of great things.


Joseph, R. A., Goodfellow, L. M., & Simko, L. C. (2014). Double ABCX model of stress and adaptation in the context of families that care for children with a tracheostomy at home. Advances in Neonatal Care, 14(3), 172-180.

Lavee, Y., McCubbin, H., & Patterson, J. (1985). The double ABCX model of family stress and adaptation: An empirical test by analysis of structural equations with latent variables. Journal of Marriage and Family, 47(4).

Magness, S. (n.d.). Stress and adaptation: Everything you need to know. The Science of Running. Web.

Pickard, K. E., & Ingersoll, B. R. (2017). Using the double ABCX model to integrate services for families of children with ASD. Journal of Child and Family Studies, 26, 810-823.

Rosino, M. (2016). ABC‐X model of family stress and coping. In The Wiley Blackwell Encyclopedia of Family Studies. John Wiley & Sons.

Price S. J., Price, C. A., & McKenry, P. C. (2017). Families coping with change: A conceptual overview. In C. Price, K. Bush, & Price, S. (Eds.), Families & Change: Coping with stressful events and transitions (pp. 4-18). Sage Publications.

Weber, J. G. (2011). The ABCX formula and the double ABCX model. In Individual and family stress and crises (pp. 82-96). Sage Publications.

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PsychologyWriting. 2023. "Family Coping With Stressful Events and Transitions." January 5, 2023.

1. PsychologyWriting. "Family Coping With Stressful Events and Transitions." January 5, 2023.


PsychologyWriting. "Family Coping With Stressful Events and Transitions." January 5, 2023.