Violence Exposure and Psychopathology in Latino Youth: The Moderating Role of Active and Avoidant Coping

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College of Arts Humanities and Social Sciences, Psychology


Despite high rates of exposure to community violence among Latino youth in urban communities, there is considerable variability in individual outcomes. This study examined (a) associations between coping and indices of Latino culture, (b) main effects of active/avoidant coping on psychopathology, and (c) whether coping moderates the impact of violence exposure on mental health in Latino youth. Participants included 168 Latino youth (56% female; ages 11–14) that took part in a short-term longitudinal study. Results indicate that youth acculturation was positively associated with active coping, but enculturation level and immigrant status were not associated with coping. Structural equation models suggested that active coping was negatively associated with internalizing problems (p = .046) while avoidant coping was positively associated with internalizing problems (p = .013) and posttraumatic stress symptoms (p = .024). Moderation analyses revealed that violence exposure was more strongly associated with internalizing problems as reliance on avoidance coping increased. However, at high levels of violence exposure, a greater reliance on active coping was related to increased posttraumatic stress problems. Findings suggest that consideration of the specific stressor, level of stress exposure, and mental health problem-type may be crucial in determining the effectiveness of a coping strategy. Implications for future research and intervention are discussed.

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