Emotional and behavioral resilience in economically disadvantaged adolescents
Living in an economically disadvantaged environment can be quite a stressful experience. Increased stress can result in physical and psychological difficulties, but there are certain factors that serve as buffers in the stress process. The primary purpose of this study was to examine the contributions of various buffers, or protective factors to the emotional and behavioral adjustment of economically disadvantaged adolescents. Specifically, the contribution of family coping skills, religious coping, sense of school membership, and neighborhood experiences were explored in a sample of adolescents who met criteria for economic disadvantage. The secondary purpose of this study was to examine the relationships among family coping strategies, potentially harmful religious coping strategies, and adjustment. Characteristics that distinguished resilient functioning youth from youth who exhibited more maladaptive functioning were also examined. A total of 156 high school students participated, and 65 met criteria for economic disadvantage. The participants completed the Reynolds Adolescent Adjustment Screening Inventory, F-COPES, RCOPE, Psychological Sense of School Membership, Neighbourhood Youth Inventory, and the Economic Hardship Questionnaire. For the economically disadvantaged sample, sense of school membership was inversely related to antisocial behavior and potentially beneficial religious coping behaviors were predictive of decreased anger management problems. When exploring the relationships between the protective factors and adjustment in the full sample, the results differed significantly. Specifically, sense of school membership was inversely related to antisocial behavior and problems with anger control. Positivity versus negativity of experiences in the neighborhood and utilization of internal family coping strategies were inversely associated with emotional distress. Engagement in the purported positive religious coping strategies was predictive of more positive sense of self. The results also indicated that economic hardship was consistently positively associated with antisocial behavior, anger management problems, low self-esteem, and emotional distress. When examining the relationships between the potentially harmful religious coping strategies and adjustment, the results indicated that spiritual discontent and pleading for direct intercession from God were related to more adjustment problems. The relationships between family coping strategies and adjustment indicated that refraining problems positively and seeking spiritual support were related to more positive adjustment. The results of this study have significant implications for clinical practice, as well as public policy. The limitations and directions for future research are also presented in this study.