Mechanisms of Change in a Coping Skills-based Prevention Program for Adolescents in Low-income Urban Neighborhoods

How does a coping skills program help youth from low-income urban neighborhoods cope with stressors that are common to their communities?

A previous randomized controlled trial demonstrated positive effects of an afterschool program designed to improve the coping skills of low-income, predominantly African-American youth ages 13–18. This Officers’ Research grant will expand that work by examining the processes by which the program improves youth’s coping strategies. The program, Resilient In spite of Stressful Events (RISE), teaches youth to select and modify coping strategies by accurately distinguishing between controllable and uncontrollable stressors, and by choosing a coping strategy appropriate to the stressor. The investigators hypothesize that this focus on appropriate fit between coping strategies and stressors of varying controllability is key to the intervention’s positive effects. To test this hypothesis, the investigators will use vignettes about situations that vary in controllability to assess coping flexibility. The investigator will examine coping efficacy and the fit between the coping strategies adolescents use in controllable versus uncontrollable situations. Behavioral outcome measures will rely on both student and primary caregivers’ reports. Study results will contribute to theory related to coping skills development and provide guidance for designing and implementing coping skills interventions for youth.