Coping with Stress, Coping with Violence: Links to Mental Health Outcomes Among At-risk Youth
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Coping reactions to stressful events are important links between difficult experiences and the emergence of psychopathology. In this study we compared youths’ negative coping with stress in general to their negative coping with violence in particular, and utilized a person-centered analytic approach to examine how patterns of coping relate to various mental health outcomes. We utilized survey interview measures to collect data from a sample of 131 youth (ages 11–14, 100 % ethnic minority) residing in an economically distressed metropolitan area of the northeast. We observed significant relations between youths’ tendencies to cope with stress and violence via externalized-internalized strategies (e.g., yelling to let off steam, crying) and their mental health symptoms. However, we generally did not observe relations between engagement in distancing coping strategies (e.g., making believe nothing happened) and any problematic outcomes. Negative coping does not appear be a monolithic construct uniformly associated with negative outcomes for youth. Distancing coping might represent an especially useful short-term coping response for youth living in socioeconomically distressed conditions from the standpoint of inhibiting symptom development.