Date of Award

6-2011

Document Type

Campus Access Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)

Department

Clinical Psychology

First Advisor

Ester R. Shapiro

Second Advisor

Alice S. Carter

Third Advisor

Laurel Wainwright

Abstract

Poor and ethnic minority children are at increased risk for exposure to violence within the family and in the community. However, there is limited research examining the differential effects of co-occurring and interrelated forms of violence on children's mental health. This study utilizes an ecological, developmental psychopathology, systems approach, theorizing that exposure to family and community violence impacts mental health by disrupting emotionally regulated coping (ERC). It was hypothesized that exposure to violence (ETV) would be associated with increased symptoms of anxiety, aggression and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and that children applying ERC strategies would report fewer mental health symptoms in the context of ETV. Secondary data analysis of the Worcester Family Research Project (Bassuk et al, 1996) was conducted to address this hypothesis. Participants were low-income housed and homeless single-parent families (n = 91) with school-age children (8-17 years). Hierarchical multiple regressions were employed to examine the association between types of ETV and mental health symptoms, and to test the influence of ERC as a moderator. After controlling for significant sociodemographic covariates, the child's report of exposure to community violence uniquely predicted child anxiety (ß = .49, p < .001). Maternal reports of exposure to intimate partner violence uniquely predicted child symptoms of aggression (ß = .22, p < .05). Maternal reports of exposure to family abuse uniquely predicted child symptoms of PTSD (ß = .21, p < .05). Child ratings on the effectiveness of their own ERC significantly moderated the link between exposure to community violence and symptoms of aggression (ß = .34, p < .01) and PTSD (ß = .23, p < .05), and approached significance as a moderator of the link between exposure to family abuse and anxiety symptoms (ß = .18, p = .06). Findings suggest that while specific violence exposures are associated with specific mental health outcomes, ERC appears to play a role in the link between ETV and some mental health symptoms. Emotionally regulated coping may offer a useful target of intervention and prevention of mental health symptoms for children at high risk of exposure to violence across multiple ecological contexts.

Comments

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