Abstract Cognitive dysfunction is a core feature of schizophrenia [Psychiatr. Clin. North Am., 16 (1993) 295; Psychopharmacology: The fourth generation of progress, Raven Press, New York (1995) 1171; Clinical Neuropsychology, Oxford University Press, New York (1993) 449] and is related to psychosocial functioning in this population [Am. J. Psychiatry, 153 (1996) 321]. It is unclear whether cognitive dysfunction is related to specific areas of functioning in schizophrenia, such as coping abilities. Individuals with schizophrenia have deficient coping skills, which may contribute to their difficulties dealing with stressors [Am. J. Orthopsychiatry, 62 (1992) 117; J. Abnorm. Psychol., 82 (1986) 189]. The current study examined the relationship between coping abilities and cognitive dysfunction in a community sample of individuals with schizophrenia. It was hypothesized that executive dysfunction and mnemonic impairments would be positively related to deficiencies in active coping efforts involving problem solving and self-initiation (e.g. advocating for oneself and others with mental illness and becoming involved in meaningful activities, such as work), independent of the contributions of the general intellectual deficits associated with the disorder and psychiatric symptoms. The results indicated that both executive dysfunction and mnemonic impairments were related to decreased usage of active coping mechanisms after controlling for general intellectual deficits. Further, recognition memory made independent contributions to the prediction of coping involving action and help seeking after controlling for the effects of negative symptoms. These findings suggest that individuals with schizophrenia may be less flexible in their use of coping strategies, which may in turn contribute to their difficulties in coping with mental illness and its consequences.