Academic journal article Violence and Victims

Coping with Chronic Community Violence: The Variety and Implications of Women's Efforts

Academic journal article Violence and Victims

Coping with Chronic Community Violence: The Variety and Implications of Women's Efforts

Article excerpt

To date, most researchers concerned with chronic community violence have studied children, and focused on the types, extent, and effects of their violence experiences. In contrast, using a series of in-depth repeated interviews, the current study explored African American women's methods for coping with chronic community violence. This article describes the variety of ways these women developed to avoid, minimize, or manage their own and their children's encounters with community violence. It argues for the importance of using these data to inform professional intervention and suggests specific implications for practice, program development, and policy.

To date, researchers concerned with chronic community violence have tended to focus on the nature and prevalence of children's experiences (e.g., Cooley, Turner, & Beidel, 1995; Guterman & Cameron, 1997; Hastings & Kelley, 1997; Richters & Martinez, 1993) and on the presence and severity of symptomatology following these experiences (e.g., Cooley-Quille, Turner, & Beidel, 1995; Fitzpatrick & Boldizar, 1993; Martinez & Richters, 1993; Singer, Anglin, Song, & Lunghofer, 1995). Researchers have paid little attention to adults' experiences of chronic community violence. Furthermore, researchers have only recently begun to explore people's efforts to cope with chronic community violence (Hill, Hawkins, Raposo, & Carr, 1995; Hill, Levermore, Twaite, & Jones, 1996; Kliewer, Lepore, Oskin, & Johnson, 1998).

According to Lazarus and Folkman (1984), the human stress response involves two basic processes: appraisal and coping. Appraisal consists of a person's efforts to evaluate the threat posed by a stressor. Coping consists of a person's efforts to manage the perceived threat. Coping efforts fall into two basic categories: problem focused and emotion focused. With problem-focused coping, the person seeks to avoid, eliminate, or reduce the actual stressor. With emotion-focused coping, the person seeks to contain or reduce overwhelming emotional reactions to the stressor. Based on data from their Ways of Coping Checklist, Lazarus and Folkman identify four basic modes of coping: direct action, inhibition of action, information search, and cognitive coping (Lazarus & Folkman, 1984).1 These categories provide sensitizing concepts for exploring women's efforts to cope with chronic community violence. In addition, their transactional perspective suggests the importance of understanding specific coping efforts in relation to particular situations. As Banyard and Graham-Bermann (1993) argue, highlighting the situational complexity and differences among women's coping efforts can help to reveal strengths that may otherwise be overlooked.

Hill, Hawkins, Raposo, and Carr (1995) provide the most relevant substantive research to date. As part of a larger study, they investigated African American women's strategies for coping with community violence, comparing their strategies across high- and (relatively) low-violence neighborhoods. During data analysis, Hill and associates identified a primary theme to summarize each woman's specific coping responses, and then coded these themes into six categories. The six categories include: keeping to oneself; staying busy; practicing active safety measures; activism; reliance on prayer; and doing nothing. While suggestive, these broad categories of coping strategies do not go far enough. Because of their level of generality, they obscure the variety, complexity, and multiplicity of women's situationally specific coping responses. The purpose of the present article is to further explore African American women's efforts to cope with chronic community violence.

Extending research to coping efforts offers several benefits.2 First, it may eventually help explain the variable effects of chronic community violence across individuals and over time. It is increasingly clear that some people fare better than others, both in the short term and especially over the long term (Harvey, 1996). …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.