Date of Award

Spring 3-20-2018

Degree Type

Masters Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)

Department

Psychology

Committee Chair

Dr. Bonnie Nicholson

Committee Chair Department

Psychology

Committee Member 2

Dr. Ashley Batastini

Committee Member 2 Department

Psychology

Committee Member 3

Dr. Vivian Tamkin

Committee Member 3 Department

Psychology

Abstract

Research shows a strong relationship between children’s exposure to a natural disaster, parental distress, and development of mental health problems. It is theorized that trauma-related parental distress is associated with maladaptive parenting behaviors, which negatively impact the psychological development of children. The long-term impact of trauma exposure from a natural disaster on parent-child relationship quality and mental health outcomes for emerging adults has only been minimally investigated. The use of adaptive coping strategies has been found to be helpful for preventing mental health problems, while maladaptive coping has been associated with the development of psychopathology. The present study examined the role of coping strategies as a mediator in the relationship between parent-child attachment quality and mental health symptoms in both a sample of emerging adult survivors of Hurricane Katrina (N = 136) and a typical sample of emerging adults (N = 156). All participants were college students (aged 18-23) and reported on perceived parent-child attachment quality, use of adaptive and maladaptive coping strategies, demographic information, and depression, anxiety, and stress symptoms. Hurricane Katrina survivor participants additionally reported on hurricane exposure severity and posttraumatic stress symptoms. As hypothesized, parent-child attachment quality was predictive of the utilization of maladaptive coping strategies in emerging adult survivors of Hurricane Katina as well as a comparison sample of emerging adults. Also, as predicted, maladaptive coping was found to be a significant partial mediator of the relationship between attachment quality and both emotional distress and posttraumatic stress symptoms. Contradictory to hypotheses, adaptive coping was not associated with attachment quality and did not mediate the relationship between attachment quality and emotional distress or posttraumatic stress symptoms in either sample. These findings suggest the negative relationship between attachment quality and maladaptive coping may be one mechanism by which the relationship between attachment quality and mental health is explained. The significance of the maladaptive coping mediation in comparison to the non-significance of the adaptive coping mediation may indicate parent-child attachment quality has a more pronounced effect on children’s development and utilization of maladaptive coping strategies than adaptive coping.

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