Defense Date


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy



First Advisor

Dr. Wendy Kliewer


Children and adolescents exposed to community violence can experience a plethora of negative outcomes including both internalizing symptoms and externalizing problems. Coping strategies can either buffer the effects of violence exposure or exacerbate negative outcomes following exposure. Given the diversity of strategies youth use to cope with violence, one unanswered question is how youth come to learn coping strategies to deal with community violence, and the roles that proximal others such as caregivers play in that process. The current study had several aims including understanding (a) how caregivers organize and conceptualize the suggestions they give to their children to cope with community violence, (b) the themes that emerge in caregivers' reasoning behind their coping suggestions, and (c) the particular qualities of the caregiver, child, family context, and community context that influence that reasoning.Maternal caregivers and their children ( N = 335 dyads) were interviewed by trained interviewers as part of a larger grant-funded study. Maternal caregivers completed a card sort task in which they had to sort 40 coping suggestions into piles based on what caregivers thought would go together. From this data, five coping suggestion clusters arose and were labeled active, positive and realistic suggestions; protection; seeking outside help; emotion regulation and control; and safe emotional expression. Following the card sort task, maternal caregivers completed a reasoning measure in which they rated the extent to which each item was a reason for why they suggested certain coping strategies to their children. This measure was subjected to confirmatory factor analysis and yielded one total factor. Caregivers answered this measure differently based on their own level of education. Regression analyses were used to examine distal influences on caregivers' reasoning behind their coping suggestions to their children; these analyses were conducted separately by caregiver education. The most important determinant of caregivers' reasoning was their own coping style, specifically active and social support coping. Caregivers did not take into account more distal factors such as qualities of their children or neighborhood. Findings are discussed in terms of implications for intervention with caregivers in communities where community violence exposure is prevalent.


© The Author

Is Part Of

VCU University Archives

Is Part Of

VCU Theses and Dissertations

Date of Submission

June 2008

Included in

Psychology Commons