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J Youth Adolesc DOI:10.1007/s10964-017-0693-5

Associations Between Trauma Type, Timing, and Accumulation on Current Coping Behaviors in Adolescents: Results from a Large, Population-based Sample.

Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2018
AuthorsVaughn-Coaxum, RA, Wang, Y, Kiely, J, Weisz, JR, Dunn, EC
JournalJ Youth Adolesc
Date Published2018 04
KeywordsAdaptation, Psychological, Adolescent, Adolescent Behavior, Attitude to Health, Female, Humans, Male, Risk Factors, Stress Disorders, Post-Traumatic, United States, Violence

The development of adolescents' coping in response to stress is critical for adaptive functioning; these coping strategies may be shaped by numerous environmental factors during childhood, including experiences such as exposure to trauma. Childhood trauma has been shown to undermine contemporaneous coping, but how does a history of exposure to trauma and the characteristics of that trauma (type, timing, and accumulation) relate to current coping among adolescents? We addressed this question using a nationally-representative sample of 9427 adolescents (ages 13-18; 48.9% female; 66% White). Adolescents reported on their lifetime exposure to 18 different traumas, including witnessing or experiencing interpersonal violence, accidents, disasters, and violent or accidental loss of loved ones, as well as their current use of coping behaviors when under stress (problem-focused, positive emotion-focused, and negative emotion-focused coping strategies). The study's results highlight that exposure to nearly all forms of trauma was unrelated to problem-focused and positive emotion-focused coping behaviors, but strongly associated with increased negative emotion-focused coping. Use of each coping style did not vary with age at first exposure to trauma, but increased with the number of lifetime traumatic events experienced. The findings suggest that the extent of prior exposure to trauma, including variations across type and timing, may be related to a particular form of coping that has been linked to increased risk for mental health problems. Study results highlight coping strategies as a potential target for prevention and treatment efforts, and indicate a need to better understand the malleability and trajectory of coping responses to stress for promoting healthy youth development.


Alternate JournalJ Youth Adolesc
PubMed ID28555292
PubMed Central IDPMC6171358
Grant ListK01 MH102403 / MH / NIMH NIH HHS / United States