College of Science and Health Theses and Dissertations

Date of Award

Fall 11-20-2018

Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)



First Advisor

Kathryn Grant, Ph.D.

Second Advisor

Jocelyn Carter, Ph.D.


Low-income urban African American youth experience multiple uncontrollable stressors (e.g. community violence) that may then impact the severity of controllable stressors (e.g. school stressors) and combine to produce negative life outcomes. In light of these negative outcomes, it is important to understand individual protective factors, and the coping response in particular. Past research has emphasized the advantages of primary control engagement coping, but recent evidence suggests that low-income urban African American youth facing complex and uncontrollable stressors may benefit more from disengagement strategies in response to uncontrollable stressors. Although it is expected this population would additionally benefit from applying engagement strategies to controllable stressors, it is unclear how well these youth are able to match their coping responses to specific stressors, namely violent versus school stressors. This study investigated four primary research questions: 1) Do low-income urban African American youth perceive different levels of control over uncontrollable (i.e. violent) versus controllable (i.e. school) stressors? 2) Does the level of violent stressors predict the level of school stressors experienced by these youth? 3) What patterns of coping strategies emerge across violent and school stressors and how does level of each stressor impact the coping response? 4) What direct effects do level of each stressor and the coping response have on outcomes (i.e. school problems, internalizing problems, and personal adjustment) and does the coping response serve as a moderator of the relation between stressors and outcomes? Secondary research questions addressed differences in each variable of interest by age and gender. Participants of this study were 143 Black or African American and Biracial/Multiracial youth between ages seven and 13 who completed a battery of measures including the Response to Stress Questionnaire (RSQ) as a measure of stressors and coping and the Behavior Assessment System for Children (BASC) as a measure of outcomes. Results indicated slightly lower levels of perceived control over violent versus school stressors, with higher levels violent stressors significantly predicting higher levels of school stressors. Cluster analysis revealed two coping typologies for each type of stressor, with avoidance and distraction in response to violent stressors and problem solving, cognitive restructuring, and social support in response to school stressors generally emerging as the most adaptive in terms of BASC outcomes. The coping response significantly differed based on level of each stressor, and coping moderated the relationship between violent stressors and internalizing problems such that acceptance and cognitive restructuring for youth exposed to the highest levels of violence was associated with lower internalizing problems.

SLP Collection