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Brief COPE

Brief COPE

What is Brief COPE

The Brief COPE is a multidimensional coping inventory to assess the different ways in which people respond to stress. It is a brief measure of coping reactions, based on the COPE inventory. The Brief COPE includes only 28 items, which measure 14 conceptually differentiable coping reactions. Some of these reactions are known to be generally adaptive; others are known to be problematic. The Brief COPE thus provides researchers a way to assess potentially important coping responses quickly.

Brief COPE Printable PDF

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Brief COPE Scoring and Interpretation

This Brief COPE consists of 14 scales, of two items each. Response options for each item are:

  • 1 = I haven't been doing this at all
  • 2 = I've been doing this a little bit
  • 3 = I've been doing this a medium amount
  • 4 = I've been doing this a lot

Scales are computed as follows (with no reversals of coding):

  • Self-distraction, items 1 and 19
  • Active coping, items 2 and 7
  • Denial, items 3 and 8
  • Substance use, items 4 and 11
  • Use of emotional support, items 5 and 15
  • Use of instrumental support, items 10 and 23
  • Behavioral disengagement, items 6 and 16
  • Venting, items 9 and 21
  • Positive reframing, items 12 and 17
  • Planning, items 14 and 25
  • Humor, items 18 and 28
  • Acceptance, items 20 and 24
  • Acceptance, items 20 and 24
  • Self-blame, items 13 and 26

PsyPack can automatically score the Brief COPE assessment and prepare corresponding tables and graphs.

Brief COPE sample result

Sample Report of Brief COPE



What does Brief COPE measure

The purpose of the evaluation is to:

  • measure coping reactions.



Type of outcome tool

Positive psychology

Assessment modes


Age and eligibility

16 years and above

Estimated time

About 10 minutes


As is true of any self-report instrument, respondents can consciously distort their response to the scale if they are motivated to do so.

There are too many different ways to deal with life's adversity to be able to measure them all in one inventory. Although the Brief COPE assesses a broad range of functions, it will be obvious to anyone who works in this area that it does not cover every possibility.

The author has had many questions about combining scales into "problem focused" and "emotion focused" aggregates, or into an "overall" coping index. The author has never done that in their own use of the scales. There is no such thing as an "overall" score on this measure, and they recommend no particular way of generating a dominant coping style for a given person. They generally look at each scale separately to see what its relation is to other variables.

  • The Brief COPE instrument need not be used in an all-or-none fashion. Researchers who have very focused interests, or who have extreme time demands, can selectively use the scales that are of greatest interest in their samples.
  • The items of Brief Cope can potentially be used in many ways. They can assume a retrospective, situational format (e.g., "I've been turning to work or other activities to take my mind off things"), a concurrent, situational format (e.g., "l'm doing things to try to lake my mind off the situation"), or even a dispositional format e.g., 'I do things to try to take my mind off the situation"). Each of these changes in format necessitates changes in the phrasing of response options and orienting instructions. However, the flexibility of application of the items is determined by the needs and imagination of the researcher who is using them.

Attribution and References

Carver, C. S. (1997). You want to measure coping but your protocol’s too long: Consider the Brief COPE. International Journal of Behavioral Medicine, 4, 92-100.