Date of Award

2015

Degree Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)

Department

Psychology

Abstract

For immigrant and refugee adolescents, acculturative stress such as social and family conflict may be experienced as a result of the acculturation process (Berry, 2006; Mena, Padilla, & Maldonado, 1987). While research documents that these adolescents demonstrate patterns of associations between acculturative stress and internalizing symptoms, development of coping strategies may help youth to address adverse stressors (Oppedal, Roysamb, & Heyerdahl, 2005; Zimmer-Gembeck & Skinner, 2011). In addition to mainstream coping strategies, culturally-relevant coping strategies may be used by ethnic minorities, particularly those of African descent (Utsey, Brown, & Bolden, 2004). The purpose of the current study was to determine if mainstream and culturally-relevant coping strategies are successful in moderating the deleterious effects of acculturative stress on the mental health of African immigrant and refugee youth.

The current study was comprised of 14 African immigrant and refugee adolescents between the ages of 11-18 (mean age = 14.65; 35.7% female). Participants were recruited from a church and a community-based organization serving immigrants and refugees. Data assessing levels of objective and perceived acculturative stress, use of mainstream and culturally-relevant coping strategies, externalizing and internalizing symptoms was collected. Regression analyses were used to determine whether coping higher acculturative stress levels were related to higher levels of culturally-relevant

coping use and if coping moderated the stress outcomes relationship. Consistent with hypothesis, higher levels of objective acculturative stress were related to higher levels of Maintaining Harmony coping use. Further, status (immigrant vs. refugee) appeared to influence this relationship. No other culturally-relevant strategies were related to acculturative stress. Inconsistent with hypothesis, active and avoidant coping strategies did not moderate the stress-outcomes relationship; however, support seeking coping affected this relationship in a direction different than predicted. Consistent with hypotheses, Maintaining Harmony coping moderated the relationship between objective stress and internalizing/externalizing symptoms. Inconsistent with hypotheses, no other culturally-relevant strategies affected this relationship. Results are discussed with regard to objective and perceived stress and implications of status on these outcomes.

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