Impacts of Family and Community Violence Exposure on Child Coping and Mental Health
An ecological stress process model was employed to explore relations between children’s exposures to family and community violence and child mental health, and emotionally-regulated coping (ERC) as a protective factor among Latino, European–American, and African–American school-aged children (n = 91; girls, n = 50[54 %]) living in single-parent families who were either homeless and residing in emergency shelters or housed but living in poverty. Mothers reported domestic violence experiences and their child’s history of physical/sexual abuse, community violence exposures, and mental health. Children reported on exposure to community violence, internalizing symptoms, and coping. The mental health impacts of multi-level violence exposures and ERC as a moderator of associations between violence exposures and child mental health was tested with structural equation modeling. Family abuse was uniquely associated with PTSD, and community violence with anxiety and aggression. Latent interaction tests revealed that ERC moderated relations between family abuse and anxiety, aggression and PTSD. Emotionally-regulated coping appears to play a protective role for children’s mental health in contexts of violence exposure, offering opportunities for intervention and prevention.
KeywordsPoverty Violence exposure Emotion regulation Mental health Ethnic minorities
This study was based on secondary analysis of data archived by the Murray Center for the Study of Lives, Harvard University, from the Worcester Family Research Project conducted by the National Center on Family Homelessness and the University of Massachusetts Medical Center at Worcester with funding from the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) and the U.S. Maternal and Child Health Bureau. We are indebted to the families and children who participated in the Worcester Family Research Project. We also thank Debra Gustafson, Kristopher Preacher, Ista Zahn and Howard Crumpton for their support and assistance with data preparation and analyses, including measurement modeling and latent interaction tests focusing on children’s own experiences of coping effectiveness.
Conflict of Interest
The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.
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