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Contextual and Behavioral Correlates of Coping Strategies Among an Ethnically Diverse Sample of Urban Adolescents in the Midwestern United States

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Coping is recognized as an important life skill. In the present cross-sectional analysis, early adolescents’ relationships with their caregivers (support, conflict) and exposure to stressors (uncontrollable life events, violence) were examined as contextual correlates of both positive and negative coping strategies. Coping strategies were examined as mediators of associations between adolescents’ family and community contexts and adjustment outcomes (externalizing symptoms, internalizing symptoms, academic investment). Participants were recruited from an urban Pre-K-8 school and Boys and Girls Club. Adolescents who reported greater support from caregivers reported greater engagement in all forms of positive coping (behavioral/problem-focused coping, cognitive/emotion-focused coping, and coping through seeking support); they also reported less engagement in coping through anger and helplessness. Adolescents who reported greater conflict with caregivers or violence exposure reported greater engagement in coping through avoidance, anger, and helplessness. Problem-focused coping, coping through anger, and coping through helplessness mediated associations between different contextual factors and outcomes.

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Research reported in this publication was supported by the Center for Healthy African American Men through Partnerships (CHAAMPS), funded by the National Institute of Minority Health and Health Disparities through a grant from the National Institutes of Health (U54MD008620), as well as the Annie E. Casey Foundation. Content is the responsibility of the authors and does not necessarily represent the official views of the National Institutes of Health or the Annie E. Casey Foundation. The authors have no financial disclosures to report. The authors gratefully acknowledge participating members, community-based organizations, and families of the Hazel Park Community Coalition; Capetra J. Parker, MPH; Hazel Park Preparatory Academy (an International Baccalaureate World School) and Dr. Delores Henderson, Principal (retired); and the East Side Boys & Girls Club and Mr. Andrew Jones, Branch Director, 2001–2019.


Research reported in this publication was supported by the National Institute of Minority Health and Health Disparities (U54MD008620) and the Annie E. Casey Foundation.

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Correspondence to Sonya S. Brady.

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Ethical Approval

Approval to conduct research was granted by the University of Minnesota Institutional Review Board, the school district’s research department for the partnering school, and the Club Branch Director for the partnering Boys & Girls Club. All procedures involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of each institution and with the 1964 Helsinki declaration and its later amendments and comparable ethical standards. This research did not include animals.

Informed Consent

At the partnering school site, consent was obtained from caregivers. At the partnering club site, a passive consent procedure was utilized. The passive consent form provided options for parents or legal guardians to opt their adolescent out of the study. At both sites, adolescents provided assent prior to participation.

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Brady, S.S., Jeffries, E.F. & Winston, W. Contextual and Behavioral Correlates of Coping Strategies Among an Ethnically Diverse Sample of Urban Adolescents in the Midwestern United States. Child Psychiatry Hum Dev (2023).

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