Psychology Ph.D. Dissertations

Title

Socializing Adolescents to Cope With Trauma: Caregiver and Peer Influences

Date of Award

2020

Document Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)

Department

Psychology

First Advisor

Eric Dubow (Advisor)

Second Advisor

Erin Felicia Labbie (Other)

Third Advisor

Dara Musher-Eizenman (Committee Member)

Fourth Advisor

Carolyn Tompsett (Committee Member)

Abstract

Exposure to trauma in childhood is a pervasive problem that is related to deleterious outcomes. Youths’ ability to respond effectively to trauma impacts their outcomes after exposure. The socialization of coping model proposed the processes through which caregivers socialize youth coping. Extant research has examined socialization of coping with limited types of stressors (e.g., medical procedures), and little research has examined the role of peers, who are an important determinant of adolescent behavior. Using a survey of 303 university students (73% female; 82% White) , I examined the relation between adolescent trauma experiences and college student adjustment, the differential impact of peer and caregiver socialization of coping on coping, and the role that one’s own coping plays in the relation between adolescent trauma and poor adjustment. Results revealed that adolescent trauma exposure was related to physical health problems; however, trauma was not related to the other measures of adjustment (i.e., GPA, BMI, mental health problems). Next, peer and caregiver coaching of both approach and avoidant coping was related to one’s own coping; however, peer coping coaching was more strongly related to avoidant coping than caregiver coping coaching. Peer and caregiver relationship quality was neither related to coping nor moderated the relation between coping coaching and coping. Finally, avoidant coping was the strongest predictor of adjustment. Approach coping was largely unrelated to college student adjustment. There was no support for the hypothesis that coping would moderate the effect of trauma on adjustment. These findings provide promising support for peers as a target for interventions to buffer poor adjustment in youth exposed to trauma. Further, screening for traumatic experiences and coping strategies during physical health exams could help assess patients’ risk for physical health problems. Overall, further research is needed to better understand the role of peer socialization of coping as well as buffers that promote better adjustment in trauma-exposed populations.

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