Towards the Development of a Culturally and Contextually Relevant Model of Coping for Low-Income, Urban, African American Youth

Article excerpt

Low income, urban African American adolescents are exposed to disproportionately high rates of stressors in their everyday lives (Allison, Burton, Marshall, Perez-Febles, Yarrington, & Kirsh, 1999; Attar, Guerra & Tolan, 1994; Gaylord-Harden, Gipson, Mance & Grant, 2008). In order to succeed in their own context and beyond, these adolescents must learn to cope effectively with the stressors they face. Little of the extant coping intervention literature has incorporated low income, urban African American adolescents, even though these youth could benefit from such interventions. The following research develops a model of the culturally and contextually relevant factors that contribute to coping for low-income, urban, African American youth. It is hoped that such a model will inform the development of coping interventions for these youth.

In this mixed methods research, a total of nine focus groups were conducted at a public elementary school in a large Midwestern city with a student population that was predominantly low income and African American. Focus groups were conducted across three stakeholder groups (fifteen parents, nineteen adolescents in the 7th and 8th grades, and eight teachers and staff members) to determine the culturally and contextually based coping strategies employed by youth.

Adolescents, teachers and parents contributed their perceptions of the types of skills adolescents should learn to cope with stressors associated with an impoverished, urban context. Additionally, participants provided information about the ways in which a coping intervention could best meet the needs of low income, urban African American adolescents.

Based on these findings, a culturally relevant and contextually based model of coping was developed to inform the development of future coping interventions. The model suggests that aspects of coping influenced by culture include religion and spirituality, interconnectedness, knowledge of cultural heritage, and emotion focused strategies. Aspects of coping influenced by a low income, urban environment include neighborhood stressors, limited protective settings, compromised relationships, and pressure for survival or adaptation. …