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The Differential Interplay of Home Routines and Comforting Beliefs on Adolescent Mental Health in Situations of Severe Parental Conflict

Abstract

Exposure to severe caregiver conflict and associated stress is detrimental to adolescent mental health. While there has been interest in factors that protect the mental health of affected adolescents, this interest has rarely accounted for how the situational and cultural context influence the positive impact of specific protective factors associated with resilience. This study investigated the interplay of home routines and comforting beliefs for the mental health of adolescents living in western, educated, industrialized, rich, and democratic (WEIRD) versus less-WEIRD communities and exposed to severe caregiver conflict. The sample comprised adolescents (14–24 years (M = 18.54), 65.6% women) from Canada (CA, n = 152) and South Africa (SA; n = 150) from the Resilient Youth in Stressed Environments project. Adolescents were recruited from economically challenged communities; the SA community was also characterized by structural disadvantage and social disorder. A robust moderated moderation model was estimated. Mental health was indicated by self-reported symptoms of depression. When comforting beliefs were present, depression scores did not differ between samples regardless of the absence/presence of daily routines. When comforting beliefs were absent, a daily routine heightened vulnerability to depression for the SA adolescents but was protective for Canadian adolescents. Comforting beliefs have similar protective effects on adolescent mental health across the studied contexts. However, context shapes the protective effect of home routines when comforting beliefs are absent. These findings inform a call for greater attention to how context shapes the protective value of interacting resilience resources and the optimal design of mental health interventions in stressed environments.

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Data can be requested from LT and MU. Code for this manuscript can be requested from JH.

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Funding

JH position was funded by the Swiss National Science Foundation (grant number P2ZHP1_184004). The research was supported by the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (IP2–150708).

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Correspondence to Jan Höltge or Linda Theron.

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The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

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Höltge, J., Ungar, M. & Theron, L. The Differential Interplay of Home Routines and Comforting Beliefs on Adolescent Mental Health in Situations of Severe Parental Conflict. ADV RES SCI 2, 5–17 (2021). https://doi.org/10.1007/s42844-021-00029-7

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  • DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/s42844-021-00029-7

Keywords

  • Social-ecological resilience
  • Systemic resilience
  • Childhood adversity
  • Differential impact theory
  • Adolescence
  • Caregiver conflict