Publications by authors named "Martha E Wadsworth"

29 Publications

  • Page 1 of 1

Individual Differences in Adolescent Coping: Comparing a Community Sample and a Low-SES Sample to Understand Coping in Context.

J Youth Adolesc 2021 Apr 25;50(4):693-710. Epub 2021 Jan 25.

University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Champaign, IL, USA.

Coping that is adaptive in low-stress environments can be ineffective or detrimental in the context of poverty. Identifying coping profiles among adolescents facing varying levels of stress can increase understanding of when and for whom coping may be most adaptive. The present study applied latent profile analysis (LPA) to identify coping profiles in two distinct samples of adolescents: a community sample of youth aged 11-16 years (N = 374, M = 13.14, 53% girls), and a low-SES sample of youth aged 12-18 years (N = 304, M = 14.56, 55% girls). The ten coping subscales of the Responses to Stress Questionnaire were included as indicators in the LPAs (problem solving, emotion regulation, emotion expression, acceptance, positive thinking, cognitive restructuring, distraction, denial, wishful thinking, and avoidance). Five profiles were identified in the community sample: Inactive, Low Engagement, Cognitive, Engaged, and Active Copers. All but the Low Engagement Copers profile were also identified in the low-SES sample, suggesting that adolescents employ similar coping strategies across contexts, but fewer low-SES adolescents engage in lower levels of coping. Profiles differed by gender and symptoms of internalizing psychopathology. Inactive copers in both samples were more likely to be male. Engaged Copers reported the lowest symptom levels whereas Active Copers reported higher symptoms. Cognitive Copers reported higher levels of anxious and depressive symptoms in the low-SES sample only, suggesting that this pattern of coping may be protective only in less stressful contexts. Elucidating within-person coping patterns is a promising avenue for targeting interventions to those most likely to benefit.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/s10964-021-01398-zDOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8074358PMC
April 2021

A multiple levels of analysis examination of the performance goal model of depression vulnerability in preadolescent children.

Dev Psychopathol 2020 Sep 14:1-21. Epub 2020 Sep 14.

Department of Psychology, The Pennsylvania State University, University Park, PA, USA.

If performance goals (i.e., motivation to prove ability) increase children's vulnerability to depression (Dykman, 1998), why are they overlooked in the psychopathology literature? Evidence has relied on self-report or observational methods and has yet to articulate how this vulnerability unfolds across levels of analysis implicated in stress-depression linkages; for example, hypothalamic-pituitaryadrenal axis (HPA), sympathetic nervous system (SNS). Utilizing a multiple-levels-of-analysis approach (Cicchetti, 2010), this experimental study tested Dykman's goal orientation model of depression vulnerability in a community sample of preadolescents (N = 121, Mage = 10.60 years, Range = 9.08-12.00 years, 51.6% male). Self-reports of performance goals, attachment security, and subjective experience of internalizing difficulties were obtained in addition to objective behavioral (i.e., task persistence) and physiologic arousal (i.e., salivary cortisol, skin conductance level) responses to the Trier Social Stress Test (TSST) and two randomly assigned coping conditions: avoidance, distraction. Children with performance goals reported greater internalizing difficulties and exhibited more dysregulated TSST physiologic responses (i.e., HPA hyperreactivity, SNS protracted recovery), yet unexpectedly displayed greater TSST task persistence and more efficient physiologic recovery during avoidance relative to distraction. These associations were stronger and nonsignificant in the context of insecure and secure attachment, respectively. Findings illustrate a complex matrix of in-the-moment, integrative psychobiological relationships linking performance goals to depression vulnerability.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1017/S0954579420000851DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7956127PMC
September 2020

The protective roles of ethnic identity, social support, and coping on depression in low-income parents: A test of the adaptation to poverty-related stress model.

J Consult Clin Psychol 2020 Jun;88(6):504-515

Department of Psychology, The Pennsylvania State University.

Objective: This study tested the Adaptation to Poverty-Related Stress (APRS) model's proposed relationships between poverty-related stress (PRS), ethnic identity affirmation (EI), social support, engagement coping, and depression in a racial/ethnically diverse sample of low-income parents.

Method: Path analysis was used to test the APRS model in a sample of 602 parents living at or below 200% of the federal poverty line (50% male, mean age = 32.55 years, SD = 8.78, 34.8% White). Multigroup path analysis tested moderation by gender and race/ethnicity.

Results: Path analysis revealed that PRS was indirectly associated with higher depressive symptoms through less social support and less use of engagement coping operating in parallel and sequentially in a three-path mediated sequence. Conversely, EI was indirectly associated with lower depressive symptoms through greater social support and greater use of engagement coping operating in parallel and sequentially. However, PRS remained a direct predictor of higher depressive symptoms. Moderation by gender and race/ethnicity was not found.

Conclusion: Overall, the findings provide empirical support for the APRS model. This study suggests that clinical and preventive interventions targeting depression in low-income parents could benefit from focusing on improving low-income parent's use of engagement coping and perceived social support. Ethnic identity is a promising target as it to protects against PRS' negative impact on coping and social support. (PsycInfo Database Record (c) 2020 APA, all rights reserved).
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1037/ccp0000477DOI Listing
June 2020

Reducing the Biological and Psychological Toxicity of Poverty-related Stress: Initial Efficacy of the BaSICS Intervention for Early Adolescents.

Am J Community Psychol 2020 06 11;65(3-4):305-319. Epub 2019 Oct 11.

Penn State University Harrisburg, Middletown, PA, USA.

This proof-of-concept study tests the initial efficacy of the Building a Strong Identity and Coping Skills (BaSICS) intervention, a selective prevention of internalizing problems program for early adolescents exposed to high levels of poverty-related stress. Eighty-four early adolescents (M  = 11.36 years) residing in very low-income neighborhoods were randomized to receive the 16-session intervention (n = 44) or to an assessment-only control condition (n = 40). BaSICS teaches coping skills, social identity development, and collective social action to empower youth with the ability to connect with members of their communities and cope with poverty-related stress in positive and collaborative ways. Pretest-posttest analyses showed that intervention adolescents acquired problem-solving and cognitive-restructuring skills and reduced their reliance on avoidant coping. In addition, HPA reactivity was significantly reduced in the intervention youth, but not controls. Finally, intervention youth's internalizing and somatic symptoms as reported by both youth and their parents, showed significant reductions over time, whereas control youth had no such changes. Results provide strong support for this approach to strength-building and symptom reduction in a population of early adolescents exposed to poverty-related stress.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1002/ajcp.12400DOI Listing
June 2020

Co-activation of SAM and HPA responses to acute stress: A review of the literature and test of differential associations with preadolescents' internalizing and externalizing.

Dev Psychobiol 2019 11 18;61(7):1079-1093. Epub 2019 May 18.

The Pennsylvania State University, University Park, Pennsylvania.

Understanding co-activation patterns of the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis (HPA) and sympathetic adrenal medullary (SAM) during early adolescence may illuminate risk for development of internalizing and externalizing problems. The present study advances empirical work on the topic by examining SAM-HPA co-activation during both the reactivity and recovery phases of the stress response following acute stress exposure. Fourth and fifth grade boys and girls (N = 149) provided cortisol and alpha-amylase via saliva at seven times throughout a 95-min assessment in which they were administered the modified Trier Social Stress Test. Parents reported on adolescents' life stress, pubertal development, medication use, and externalizing problems. Adolescents reported their own internalizing symptoms. Multiple linear regressions tested both direct and interactive effects of SAM and HPA reactivity and recovery on internalizing and externalizing problems. Results from these analyses showed that whereas SAM and HPA reactivity interacted to predict internalizing symptoms, it was their interaction during the recovery phase that predicted externalizing. Concurrent high SAM and HPA reactivity scores predicted high levels of internalizing and concurrently low SAM and HPA recovery scores predicted high levels of externalizing. Implications of the findings for further study and clinical application are discussed.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1002/dev.21866DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6823107PMC
November 2019

Extending the toxic stress model into adolescence: Profiles of cortisol reactivity.

Psychoneuroendocrinology 2019 09 6;107:46-58. Epub 2019 May 6.

Department of Psychology, The Pennsylvania State University, University Park, PA 16802, United States.

The toxic stress model posits that extended activation of stress response systems in the absence of a supportive relationship with an adult may over time lead to physiological alterations to these same systems, and ultimately to poorer physical and mental health outcomes. However, empirical tests of model hypotheses in adolescence, a critical period of development, are lacking. This study expands the toxic stress model to include more developmentally-appropriate risk and protective factors for adolescents experiencing overwhelming and uncontrollable stressors. Data were collected for a study of early adolescents from urban low-income households (N = 101; 10-12 years old; 59% female). Participants and a caregiver completed questionnaires; youths completed the modified Trier Social Stress Task alone and provided six saliva samples. Using latent profile analysis, three profiles of cortisol reactivity were identified in early adolescents exposed to chronic environmental stress: Elevated and Reactive (11%), Moderate and Non-Reactive (26%), and Blunted and Non-Reactive (63%). In accordance with the toxic stress model, exposure to more community violence and less family support were associated with blunted cortisol reactivity, and Reactive profile membership was associated with fewer trauma symptoms. Overall, the findings provide empirical support for the extension of the toxic stress model in early adolescence through the application of developmentally-sensitive measures and provide implications for future interventions.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.psyneuen.2019.05.002DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6635096PMC
September 2019

Impact of psychophysiological stress-response systems on psychological development: Moving beyond the single biomarker approach.

Dev Psychol 2018 Sep;54(9):1601-1605

Department of Psychology, Virginia Commonwealth University.

This Special Section showcases cutting-edge, theory-driven research, which elucidates how multiple physiologic stress-response systems and neural networks that support social behavior operate together to affect psychological processes across from infancy to adolescence. The 8 papers included in the Special Section represent cutting-edge efforts to understand how multiple physiological systems jointly influence behavior. They raise new questions, highlight issues that remain unresolved, and suggest additional directions for research. It is our hope that they will stimulate theory building and new, integrative studies that will advance knowledge about the coordinated effects of neural, endocrine, and autonomic systems on social, emotional, and cognitive development. (PsycINFO Database Record
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1037/dev0000596DOI Listing
September 2018

Future Directions in Research and Intervention with Youths in Poverty.

J Clin Child Adolesc Psychol 2018 Nov-Dec;47(6):1023-1038. Epub 2018 Jul 27.

a Department of Psychology , The Pennsylvania State University.

This article aims to integrate theory and empirical findings about understanding and fostering the process of resilience and adaptation in children and families who live in poverty. In this article, we draw from multiple, somewhat distinct, scholarly streams to identify sources of protection, integrating across the literatures on stress and coping, psychophysiology, cultural identity development, and empowerment theory. Because living in poverty cuts across other dimensions of social differentiation and structural inequality, intersectionality theory frames our discussion of how to leverage poverty-affected youths' diverse experiences. We present a framework to guide intervention and research on resiliency promotion, describe the Building a Strong Identity and Coping Skills intervention stemming from the framework, and suggest possible avenues and next steps for both interventions and research.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/15374416.2018.1485108DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6348127PMC
September 2019

Financial stress response profiles and psychosocial functioning in low-income parents.

J Fam Psychol 2018 06;32(4):517-527

Department of Psychology, The Pennsylvania State University.

Parenting in the context of poverty is accompanied by heightened stress and heightened stakes. How parents respond to poverty-related stress has important implications for family functioning, but research investigating individual differences in low-income mothers' and fathers' responses to financial stress and their associations with parents' concurrent psychosocial adaptation is lacking. A better understanding of differences in stress responses among low-income parents is required to develop and tailor prevention programs that meet these families' needs. This study applies latent profile analysis (LPA) to identify and describe profiles of financial stress responses (problem solving, emotion regulation, emotion expression, cognitive restructuring, positive thinking, acceptance, distraction, denial, avoidance, wishful thinking, rumination, intrusive thoughts, emotional arousal, physiologic arousal, impulsive action, emotional numbing, cognitive interference, escape, and inaction) and examines associations between profile membership and psychosocial functioning in low-income parents. Five profiles were identified that were distinguished by self-reported voluntary and involuntary financial stress responses: active (32% of sample), low (11%), high (11%), negative cognitive (NC; 17%), and average (29%) responders. Notable differences emerged on measures of life stress, economic hardship, psychopathology, and social support, with individuals in the NC responders profile reporting the most difficulty and members of the active responders profile reporting the greatest adaptation. These findings offer a more nuanced understanding of how mothers and fathers respond to chronic poverty-related stress and have valuable implications for intervention efforts to promote adaptive stress responses and psychosocial functioning in low-income families. (PsycINFO Database Record
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1037/fam0000403DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5995125PMC
June 2018

Person-centered examination of salivary cortisol and alpha-amylase responses to psychosocial stress: Links to preadolescent behavioral functioning and coping.

Biol Psychol 2018 02 15;132:143-153. Epub 2017 Dec 15.

Department of Psychology, The Pennsylvania State University, University Park, PA 16802, United States.

This study adopted a person-centered approach to identify preadolescent salivary cortisol (sC) and alpha-amylase (sAA) co-activation response patterns and examine links to behavioral functioning and coping. Children (N = 151, 51.7% male) were exposed to the Trier Social Stress Test (TSST) and one of two randomly-assigned, post-TSST coping conditions: distraction or avoidance. Multi-trajectory modeling yielded four child subgroups. Child internalizing and externalizing positively predicted High sC-High sAA relative to Low sC-Low sAA and Low sC-High sAA relative to High sC-Low sAA subgroup membership, respectively. Low sC-Low sAA children demonstrated more efficient sC recovery when primed with distraction and more protracted sC recovery when primed with avoidance. For High sC-High sAA, internalizing children, the opposite was true. Findings illustrate adjustment-linked variability in preadolescent sC-sAA co-activation response patterns that further articulates for whom effortful coping works to effectively manage stressor-induced neuroendocrine activation.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.biopsycho.2017.11.011DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5801083PMC
February 2018

Temperament, coping, and involuntary stress responses in preadolescent children: the moderating role of achievement goal orientation.

Anxiety Stress Coping 2018 Jan 7;31(1):79-92. Epub 2017 Sep 7.

a Department of Psychology , The Pennsylvania State University , University Park , PA , USA.

Background And Objectives: Developmental theorists posit that temperament contributes to preadolescent's stress response styles. Findings from empirical studies, however, have yielded mixed results, thus indicating a need to consider moderators of this relation. Utilizing an analytic framework guided by resiliency theory [Zimmerman, M. A. (2013). Resiliency theory: A strengths-based approach to research and practice for adolescent health. Health Education & Behavior, 40, 381-383], this study examined achievement goal orientation as a moderator of the relation between temperament and stress response styles.

Methods: 96 preadolescent-parent dyads (M = 10.30 years, range = 9-12 years) participated in the study. Preadolescents reported on their achievement goal orientation, coping and involuntary stress responses (ISRs) styles and a parent reported on children's temperament.

Results: Multiple regressions revealed that effortful control positively predicted preadolescent's predominant use of engagement coping and negatively predicted predominance of ISRs, but only for children with a predominant mastery goal orientation. For preadolescents with a predominant performance goal orientation, effortful control negatively predicted the predominant use of engagement coping and positively predicted predominance of ISRs. Negative affectivity and its interaction with goal orientation did not predict coping or ISR styles.

Conclusions: Findings suggest that a predominant mastery goal orientation may function as a promotive factor by enhancing the contribution of effortful control to engagement coping styles and buffering against unmanaged reactivity.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/10615806.2017.1373325DOI Listing
January 2018

If the coping fits, use it: Preadolescent recent stress exposure differentially predicts post-TSST salivary cortisol recovery.

Dev Psychobiol 2017 11 25;59(7):848-862. Epub 2017 Jul 25.

Department of Psychology, The Pennsylvania State University, University Park, Pennsylvania.

This study examined recent stress exposure and effortful coping effects on salivary cortisol (sC) response patterns in preadolescent boys and girls (N = 121, M  = 10.60 years). Children were exposed to the Trier Social Stress Test (TSST) and one of two randomly assigned, post-TSST coping conditions: distraction and avoidance. Piecewise growth multilevel modeling did not link children's recent stressful life events or hair cortisol (hC) levels to sC reactivity, though each interacted with coping condition to predict sC recovery patterns. Children with elevated life stressor and hC levels demonstrated protracted sC recovery when primed with distraction, yet more efficient sC recovery when primed with avoidance. Findings challenge assumptions about universally "good" and "bad" coping by highlighting contexts where each succeed and fail in helping children manage acute stress physiology.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1002/dev.21542DOI Listing
November 2017

What constitutes effective coping and efficient physiologic regulation following psychosocial stress depends on involuntary stress responses.

Psychoneuroendocrinology 2016 11 6;73:42-50. Epub 2016 Jul 6.

The Pennsylvania State University, Moore Building, University Park, PA 16803, United States. Electronic address:

This study utilized a random-assignment experimental design to examine the interactive contributions of youth-reported trait involuntary stress responses (ISRs) and effortful coping on physiologic reactivity and recovery patterns in preadolescent boys and girls. Fourth- and fifth-grade child-parent dyads (N=126) participated in this study. Children were exposed to the Trier Social Stress Test (TSST-C) and then to one of two randomly-assigned experimental coping conditions: behavioral distraction and cognitive avoidance. Children's ISRs were examined as predictors of salivary cortisol and alpha-amylase (sAA) reactivity as well as moderators of the effect of coping condition on cortisol and sAA recovery trajectories. Multi-level modeling analyses did not link ISRs to physiologic reactivity patterning. ISRs and coping condition interacted to predict differential physiologic recovery trajectories. In the distraction condition, children reporting high ISR levels displayed less efficient cortisol and sAA recovery than children reporting low ISR levels. Surprisingly, the opposite was found for children reporting high ISR levels in the avoidance condition. These children displayed more efficient physiologic recovery relative to their high ISR level peers in the distraction condition. Findings suggest that the efficiency of preadolescents' physiologic recovery following stress may depend on regulatory fit between children's ISR levels and cues from their coping environment.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.psyneuen.2016.07.005DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5296770PMC
November 2016

Unlocking the Black Box: A Multilevel Analysis of Preadolescent Children's Coping.

J Clin Child Adolesc Psychol 2018 Jul-Aug;47(4):527-541. Epub 2016 Mar 30.

c Department of Psychology , University of Denver.

This random assignment experimental study examined the intersection of children's coping and physiologic stress reactivity and recovery patterns in a sample of preadolescent boys and girls. A sample of 82 fourth-grade and fifth-grade (M = 10.59 years old) child-parent dyads participated in the present study. Children participated in the Trier Social Stress Test and were randomly assigned to one of two post-Trier Social Stress Test experimental coping conditions-behavioral distraction or cognitive avoidance. Children's characteristic ways of coping were examined as moderators of the effect of experimental coping condition on cortisol reactivity and recovery patterns. Multilevel modeling analyses indicated that children's characteristic coping and experimental coping condition interacted to predict differential cortisol recovery patterns. Children who characteristically engaged in primary control engagement coping strategies were able to more quickly down-regulate salivary cortisol when primed to distract themselves than when primed to avoid, and vice versa. The opposite pattern was true for characteristic disengagement coping in the context of coping condition, suggesting that regulatory fit between children's characteristic ways of coping and cues from their coping environment may lead to more and less adaptive physiologic recovery profiles. This study provides some of the first evidence that coping "gets under the skin" and that children's characteristic ways of coping may constrain or enhance a child's ability to make use of environmental coping resources.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/15374416.2016.1141356DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6071424PMC
May 2019

Development of Maladaptive Coping: A Functional Adaptation to Chronic, Uncontrollable Stress.

Child Dev Perspect 2015 Jun;9(2):96-100

The Pennsylvania State University.

Health disparities are rooted in childhood and stem from adverse early environments that damage physiologic stress-response systems. Developmental psychobiological models of the effects of chronic stress account for both the negative effects of a stress-response system calibrated to a dangerous and unpredictable environment from a health perspective, and the positive effects of such an adaptively calibrated stress response from a functional perspective. Our research suggests that contexts that produce functionally adapted physiologic responses to stress also encourage a functionally adapted coping response-coping that can result in maladjustment in physical and mental health, but enables children to grow and develop within those contexts. In this article, I highlight the value of reframing maladaptive coping as functional adaptation to understand more completely the development of children's coping in different contexts, and the value of such a conceptual shift for coping-based theory, research, and intervention.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/cdep.12112DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4442090PMC
June 2015

A longitudinal examination of the Adaptation to Poverty-Related Stress Model: predicting child and adolescent adjustment over time.

J Clin Child Adolesc Psychol 2013 16;42(5):713-25. Epub 2013 Jan 16.

a Department of Psychology , The Pennsylvania State University.

This study tests key tenets of the Adaptation to Poverty-related Stress Model. This model (Wadsworth, Raviv, Santiago, & Etter, 2011 ) builds on Conger and Elder's family stress model by proposing that primary control coping and secondary control coping can help reduce the negative effects of economic strain on parental behaviors central to the family stress model, namely, parental depressive symptoms and parent-child interactions, which together can decrease child internalizing and externalizing problems. Two hundred seventy-five co-parenting couples with children between the ages of 1 and 18 participated in an evaluation of a brief family strengthening intervention, aimed at preventing economic strain's negative cascade of influence on parents, and ultimately their children. The longitudinal path model, analyzed at the couple dyad level with mothers and fathers nested within couple, showed very good fit, and was not moderated by child gender or ethnicity. Analyses revealed direct positive effects of primary control coping and secondary control coping on mothers' and fathers' depressive symptoms. Decreased economic strain predicted more positive father-child interactions, whereas increased secondary control coping predicted less negative mother-child interactions. Positive parent-child interactions, along with decreased parent depression and economic strain, predicted child internalizing and externalizing over the course of 18 months. Multiple-group models analyzed separately by parent gender revealed, however, that child age moderated father effects. Findings provide support for the adaptation to poverty-related stress model and suggest that prevention and clinical interventions for families affected by poverty-related stress may be strengthened by including modules that address economic strain and efficacious strategies for coping with strain.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/15374416.2012.755926DOI Listing
May 2014

Children's vagal regulatory capacity predicts attenuated sympathetic stress reactivity in a socially supportive context: evidence for a protective effect of the vagal system.

Dev Psychopathol 2012 May;24(2):677-89

Department of Psychology, University of Denver, 2155 South Race Street, Denver, CO 80208, USA.

Social support and vagal regulatory capacity (VRC), an index of flexible vagal responses during various types of stress, are linked to attenuated stress responding and positive health outcomes. Guided by the polyvagal perspective, we tested whether children's VRC is associated with attenuated sympathetic nervous system (SNS) stress reactivity in socially supportive conditions. Sixty-one 4- to 5-year-old children living in poverty underwent two standardized laboratory stress induction procedures. Cardiac vagal reactivity (respiratory sinus arrhythmia) to a first set of stressors (social, cognitive, physical, and emotional) indexed VRC. During a second set of stressors, participants were randomly assigned to a supportive or nonsupportive social context, and cardiac sympathetic reactivity (preejection period) was assessed. We hypothesized VRC would predict lower SNS stress reactivity, but only in the socially supportive context. Children with high VRC showed attenuated SNS stress reactivity in the socially supportive context compared to children with high VRC in the nonsupportive context and children with low VRC in either context. Individual differences in VRC predict attenuated SNS stress reactivity in socially supportive conditions. Understanding how social support and VRC jointly mitigate SNS stress reactivity may further efforts to prevent negative health outcomes. Implications for biological sensitivity to context and differential susceptibility theories are discussed.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1017/S0954579412000247DOI Listing
May 2012

Where's the action? Understanding what works and why in relationship education.

Behav Ther 2012 Mar 30;43(1):99-112. Epub 2011 May 30.

University of Denver, Department of Psychology, 2155 South Race Street, Denver, CO 80208-3500, USA.

The field of couples relationship education has come to a critical junction. We have generally demonstrated that our interventions work (at least in the short run) but to what extent have we shown that the skills and processes we teach are in fact responsible for the success of the intervention? In this paper we review progress made in understanding mechanisms of change in relationship education, explore limitations of this body of research, explicate the barriers that interfere with progress in understanding mechanisms of change in intervention research, and present recommendations on how to proceed from here. Although our goal in this paper is to focus more on issues in the field rather than to present a comprehensive review of the literature, we provide overarching research summaries to illustrate some of our points. We conclude with offering recommendations for the next generation of research in the couples relationship education field.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.beth.2011.01.006DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3518411PMC
March 2012

Testing the adaptation to poverty-related stress model: predicting psychopathology symptoms in families facing economic hardship.

J Clin Child Adolesc Psychol 2011 ;40(4):646-57

Department of Psychology, University of Denver, CO 80208, USA.

This study tested the Adaptation to Poverty-related Stress Model and its proposed relations between poverty-related stress, effortful and involuntary stress responses, and symptoms of psychopathology in an ethnically diverse sample of low-income children and their parents. Prospective Hierarchical Linear Modeling analyses conducted with 98 families (300 family members: 136 adults, 82 adolescents and preadolescents, 82 school-age children) revealed that, consistent with the model, primary and secondary control coping were protective against poverty-related stress primarily for internalizing symptoms. Conversely, disengagement coping exacerbated externalizing symptoms over time. In addition, involuntary engagement stress responses exacerbated the effects of poverty-related stress for internalizing symptoms, whereas involuntary disengagement responses exacerbated externalizing symptoms. Age and gender effects were found in most models, reflecting more symptoms of both types for parents than children and higher levels of internalizing symptoms for girls.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/15374416.2011.581622DOI Listing
November 2011

Predictors of responses to stress among families coping with poverty-related stress.

Anxiety Stress Coping 2012 May 10;25(3):239-58. Epub 2011 Aug 10.

Department of Psychiatry and Biobehavioral Sciences, University of California, Los Angeles, CA, USA.

This study tested how poverty-related stress (PRS), psychological distress, and responses to stress predicted future effortful coping and involuntary stress responses one year later. In addition, we explored age, sex, ethnicity, and parental influences on responses to stress over time. Hierarchical linear modeling analyses conducted with 98 low-income families (300 family members: 136 adults, 82 school-aged children, 82 adolescents) revealed that primary control coping, secondary control coping, disengagement, involuntary engagement, and involuntary disengagement each significantly predicted future use of that response. Primary and secondary control coping also predicted less maladaptive future responses to stress, while involuntary responses to stress undermined the development of adaptive responding. Age, sex, and interactions among PRS and prior coping were also found to predict certain responses to stress. In addition, child subgroup analyses demonstrate the importance of parental modeling of coping and involuntary stress responses, and warmth/nurturance and monitoring practices. Results are discussed with regard to the implications for preventive interventions with families in poverty.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/10615806.2011.583347DOI Listing
May 2012

Family and cultural influences on low-income latino children's adjustment.

J Clin Child Adolesc Psychol 2011 ;40(2):332-7

Department of Psychiatry and Biobehavioral Sciences, University of California, Los Angeles, Los Angeles CA, USA.

This study examined family and cultural influences on adjustment among 90 low-income Latino middle school children (46% girls; average age = 11.38, SD = .66) and their primary caregivers (93% female; average age = 36.12, SD = 6.13). All participants identified as Hispanic/Latino, with 75% of families identifying as Mexican-origin Latino, and 77% of parents and 32% of children identifying as immigrants. Hierarchical linear modeling analyses revealed that family reframing interacted with familism, with high levels of both associated with fewer psychological symptoms, whereas passive appraisal is linked to worse functioning. Results are discussed with regard to the implications of this research for preventive interventions with families in poverty.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/15374416.2011.546038DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3064884PMC
July 2011

Preliminary efficacy of an intervention to reduce psychosocial stress and improve coping in low-income families.

Am J Community Psychol 2011 Dec;48(3-4):257-71

University of Denver, CO, USA.

This article reports pre-post intervention results from a randomized controlled trial evaluating the initial efficacy of a couples-based intervention aimed at teaching skills for coping with stress and improving relationship skills in a sample of 173 ethnically diverse low-income co-resident mothers and fathers who were raising at least one child together. Couples were randomly assigned to one of three interventions or to an assessment-only control condition. The Fatherhood, Relationship, and Marriage Education (FRAME) intervention is a 14-h psychoeducation intervention developed specifically to strengthen the ability of low-income mothers and fathers to reduce conflict, cope with stress, and co-parent effectively. Three versions of FRAME were assessed: a men-only group, a women-only group, and a couple's group. The pre-post intervention analyses revealed reductions in financial stress, disengagement coping, and involuntary disengagement responses, as well as improvements in problem solving. These pre-post changes on stress and coping variables were both statistically significant and reliable as assessed by the Reliable Change Index (Jacobson and Truax 1991). Results were particularly strong for the couples' and women's groups. In addition, positive pre-post changes on stress and coping variables were associated with pre-post reductions on symptoms of depression for participants assigned to an intervention. The results demonstrate that participants in FRAME acquire some of the key skills taught in the intervention, and skills acquisition appears to translate into symptom reduction. In addition, this study highlights the value of an intervention aiming to improve the capacity of parents with economic hardship to cope effectively with stress.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/s10464-010-9384-zDOI Listing
December 2011

Cross-national comparison of the link between socioeconomic status and emotional and behavioral problems in youths.

Soc Psychiatry Psychiatr Epidemiol 2011 Feb 18;46(2):167-72. Epub 2010 Feb 18.

Department of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, Erasmus MC, P.O. Box 2060, 3000 CB, Rotterdam, The Netherlands.

Introduction: In previous longitudinal studies in the US, lower socioeconomic status (SES) was associated with more emotional and behavioral problems. It remains unclear whether these findings can be generalized outside the US, as different countries vary in their health care systems and prevention of psychopathology in youth. Therefore, we studied the same associations in a comparable sample in The Netherlands and directly tested for differences between the US and The Netherlands.

Methods: The US (N=833) and Dutch (N=708) population samples were followed-up for 9 years. Age at baseline ranged from 8 to 16 years. Parents filled out behavior checklists.

Results: Analyses revealed very few differences between the two countries. In both countries, SES predicted syndrome scores and cumulative prevalence rates for internalizing and externalizing problems (withdrawn and aggressive behavior) and for thought and attention Problems. The SES gradient in syndrome scores was stable over time. Only for withdrawn behavior, the gradient was larger in young adulthood.

Conclusion: Although the health care systems differ between the US and The Netherlands, the socioeconomic disparities in emotional and behavioral problems were similar.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/s00127-010-0191-5DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3034891PMC
February 2011

Coping with displacement from Hurricane Katrina: predictors of one-year post-traumatic stress and depression symptom trajectories.

Anxiety Stress Coping 2009 Jul;22(4):413-32

Department of Psychology, University of Denver, Denver, USA.

This study examined predictors of symptom trajectories of 93 adult survivors of Hurricane Katrina who were displaced and relocated to Colorado. Survivors were interviewed within six months of the hurricane and then again six months later. Four symptom trajectories were identified for clinical levels of depression and post-traumatic stress: resilient, recovered, delayed onset, and chronic. High levels of adaptive coping and coping efficacy characterized the resilient groups and low levels of both characterized the chronic groups. The recovered groups were characterized by low levels of adaptive coping coupled with high coping efficacy, and the delayed groups were characterized by high secondary control coping in the presence of low primary control coping, though some symptom-specific differences were found for these two groups. African American (67%) participants did not differ from European American (28%) participants in terms of membership in trajectory groups, though analyses revealed that displacement stress and positive religious coping were especially relevant predictors for African American participants. The results are interpreted in light of the Conservation of Resources Theory (Hobfoll, 2001) and implications for treatment and preventive intervention are discussed.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/10615800902855781DOI Listing
July 2009

Poverty and involuntary engagement stress responses: examining the link to anxiety and aggression within low-income families.

Anxiety Stress Coping 2009 May;22(3):309-25

Department of Psychology, University of Denver, Denver, USA.

Families living with the burdens of poverty-related stress are at risk for developing a range of psychopathology. The present study examines the year-long prospective relationships among poverty-related stress, involuntary engagement stress response (IESR) levels, and anxiety symptoms and aggression in an ethnically diverse sample of 98 families (300 individual family members) living at or below 150% of the US federal poverty line. Hierarchical Linear Modeling (HLM) moderator model analyses provided strong evidence that IESR levels moderated the influence of poverty-related stress on anxiety symptoms and provided mixed evidence for the same interaction effect on aggression. Higher IESR levels, a proxy for physiological stress reactivity, worsened the impact of stress on symptoms. Understanding how poverty-related stress and involuntary stress responses affect psychological functioning has implications for efforts to prevent or reduce psychopathology, particularly anxiety, among individuals and families living in poverty.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/10615800802430933DOI Listing
May 2009

Risk and resiliency processes in ethnically diverse families in poverty.

J Fam Psychol 2008 Jun;22(3):399-410

Department of Psychology, University of Denver, Denver, CO 80208, USA.

Families living in poverty face numerous stressors that threaten the health and well-being of family members. This study examined the relationships among family-level poverty-related stress (PRS), individual-level coping with PRS, and a wide range of psychological symptoms in an ethnically diverse sample of 98 families (300 family members) living at or below 150% of the federal poverty line. Hierarchical linear model (HLM) analyses revealed that family PRS is robustly related to a wide range of psychological syndromes for family members of both genders, all ages, and all ethnic backgrounds. In addition, primary and secondary control coping were both found to serve as buffers of PRS for many syndromes. For several psychological syndromes, parents showed significantly higher levels of symptoms, but the link between PRS and symptoms was significantly stronger for children than for adults. Ethnicity was not a significant predictor in overall HLM models or follow-up analyses, suggesting that the broad construct of PRS and the theoretical model tested here apply across the 3 major ethnic groups included in this study. The findings suggest that family-based, coping-focused interventions have the potential to promote resiliency and break linkages in the pernicious cycle of family economic stress.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1037/0893-3200.22.3.399DOI Listing
June 2008

Forgiving the September 11th terrorists: associations with coping, psychological distress, and religiosity.

Anxiety Stress Coping 2007 Jun;20(2):109-28

Department of Psychology, University of Denver, Denver, Colorado 80208, USA.

Two studies examined how non-interpersonal forgiveness (when there is no social relationship between the transgressor and forgiver) related to coping and involuntary responses to stress, psychological distress, and religiosity. Three to six weeks after September 11th, 2001, forgiveness had non-linear associations with other responses to the terrorist attacks. Among college students (N=488), those who were trying or had forgiven (pro-forgiveness) the terrorists reported less involuntary engagement, more primary and secondary control coping, and more meaning finding than those who were unsure about forgiveness (ambivalent) and those who did not believe the perpetrators should be forgiven (anti-forgiveness). Ambivalent students reported the most distress, even after controlling for religion. Anti-forgiveness students reported less religiosity than ambivalent and pro-forgiveness students. Most findings were consistent among middle schoolers (N=154), particularly regarding psychological distress and responses to stress. Also, forgiveness of strangers for acts against one's community functioned separately from religion.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/10615800701195405DOI Listing
June 2007

Explaining the link between low socioeconomic status and psychopathology: testing two mechanisms of the social causation hypothesis.

J Consult Clin Psychol 2005 Dec;73(6):1146-53

Department of Psychology, University of Denver, CO 80208, USA.

Two mechanisms of the hypothesized social causation of psychopathology--differential incidence and cumulative prevalence--were tested over 9 years in a nationally representative sample of 1,075 children and youths, ages 8-17 at Time 1 (1986). Analyses using parental responses on behavior checklists at 4 time points showed significant increases in clinical elevations for those of the lowest socioeconomic status (SES) on anxious/depressed, somatic complaints, thought problems, delinquent, and aggressive syndromes. This SES-linked differential incidence supports the social causation hypothesis that factors associated with SES contribute to variations in levels of psychological problems. SES-linked differential cumulative prevalence was found for withdrawn and somatic complaints; this finding indicates that low-SES cases do not improve as much as do middle- and high-SES cases, which results in greater accumulation of low-SES cases.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1037/0022-006X.73.6.1146DOI Listing
December 2005

Cultural identity, explanatory style, and depression in Navajo adolescents.

Cultur Divers Ethnic Minor Psychol 2004 Nov;10(4):365-82

Department of Public Health and Preventive Medicine, Oregon Health and Science University, Portland, OR 97239, USA.

This study investigated the interrelationships among cultural identity, explanatory style, and depression in Navajo adolescents. A total of 332 (197 female, 135 male) Navajo adolescents completed 7 self-report measures. These data were used to create, via structural equation modeling, a series of factor models and full structural models. Analyses indicated that current factor structures for explanatory style and depression are adequate for use with Navajo adolescents. Increased control and predictability and limited duration of stressful encounters were both predictive of decreased symptoms of depression. Higher levels of Navajo cultural identity had a modest effect in terms of reducing depression. Other factors, such as perceived discrimination and urban/reservation domicile, are important to study to provide an increased understanding of depression among Navajo adolescents.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1037/1099-9809.10.4.365DOI Listing
November 2004
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