Coping Strategies and Psychological Symptoms Among Children on St. Thomas in the Aftermath of Hurricanes Irma and Maria
Author ORCID Identifier
Journal of Traumatic Stress
Research has shown that experiencing a hurricane can lead to internalizing, externalizing, and posttraumatic stress (PTS) symptoms in children. However, the effects of experiencing two hurricanes within a short time frame have not been examined. Moreover, there is limited research examining how children's coping is linked to their psychological functioning and no research using the empirically supported conceptualization of coping that includes primary control coping (i.e., attempts to control the stressor) and secondary control coping (i.e., attempts to adapt to the stressor). This study examined the psychological functioning of 108 children and adolescents (69.7% Black, Non-Hispanic; 56.5% female; M age = 11.59 years, SD = 2.43) in Grades 3–12 as measured 3 months after experiencing Hurricanes Irma and Maria on the island of St. Thomas. Participants completed electronic questionnaires about their demographic characteristics, hurricane exposure (i.e., perceived life-threat, life-threatening events, loss/disruption after hurricanes), coping strategies utilized, and their psychological functioning (i.e., PTS, internalizing, and externalizing symptoms). A principal component analysis of the coping items determined four coping factors: primary control, secondary control, disengagement, and negative coping. Linear regressions, including children's age and aspects of hurricane exposure, found primary control coping was positively associated with PTS symptoms, β =.18, whereas secondary control coping was negatively associated with PTS and externalizing symptoms, βs = −.17 and −.19, respectively. Negative coping, but not disengagement coping, was positively associated with all three outcomes, βs =.31–.42. These findings suggest positive ways children can cope after experiencing a hurricane, informing possible early intervention efforts.
Pittman, Laura D.; Cutright, Nicolette L.; McNeela, Lauren; Awada, Samantha; Pabis, Jacqueline; Kochanova, Kristina; and Shelleby, Elizabeth, "Coping Strategies and Psychological Symptoms Among Children on St. Thomas in the Aftermath of Hurricanes Irma and Maria" (2020). NIU Bibliography. 296.
Department of Psychology