Reducing the Biological and Psychological Toxicity of Poverty‐Related Stress: Initial Efficacy of the BaSICS Intervention for Early Adolescents

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College of Arts Humanities and Social Sciences, Psychology


Selective prevention, Poverty, Adolescents, Coping, Internalizing


This proof‐of‐concept study tests the initial efficacy of the Building a Strong Identity and Coping Skills (BaSICS) intervention, a selective prevention of internalizing problems program for early adolescents exposed to high levels of poverty‐related stress. Eighty‐four early adolescents (Mage = 11.36 years) residing in very low‐income neighborhoods were randomized to receive the 16‐session intervention (n = 44) or to an assessment‐only control condition (n = 40). BaSICS teaches coping skills, social identity development, and collective social action to empower youth with the ability to connect with members of their communities and cope with poverty‐related stress in positive and collaborative ways. Pretest–posttest analyses showed that intervention adolescents acquired problem‐solving and cognitive‐restructuring skills and reduced their reliance on avoidant coping. In addition, HPA reactivity was significantly reduced in the intervention youth, but not controls. Finally, intervention youth's internalizing and somatic symptoms as reported by both youth and their parents, showed significant reductions over time, whereas control youth had no such changes. Results provide strong support for this approach to strength‐building and symptom reduction in a population of early adolescents exposed to poverty‐related stress.

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Copyright is held by the Society for Community Research and Action. User is responsible for all copyright compliance. This article was originally published as:

Wadsworth, M. E., McDonald, A., Joos, C. M., Ahlkvist, J. A., Perzow, S. E. D., Tilghman‐Osborne, E. M., ..., & Brelsford, G. M. (2020). Reducing the biological and psychological toxicity of poverty‐related stress: Initial efficacy of the BaSICS intervention for early adolescents. American Journal of Community Psychology, 65(3-4), 305-319.

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Society for Community Research and Action


Received from CHORUS


English (eng)

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American Journal of Community Psychology





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