Identifying Psychosocial Variables Related to Child and Adolescent Adjustment Following a Residential Fire: The Role of Appraisal, Coping, and Family Environment

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Virginia Tech

The substantial emotional impact of trauma on children, adolescents and their caregivers has been amply documented within the general disaster literature. However, research addressing the specific psychological impact of residential fire on child and family functioning is still considered to be in its infancy. The present study adapted the Transactional Stress and Coping (TSC) model for this purpose. This was an extension of the TSC model from the child chronic health to the trauma literature. The TSC model proposes that child and adolescent adjustment (i.e., in the present study, symptoms levels of PTSD, depression, anxiety) following a residential fire will be mediated by both child and adolescent adaptational processes (i.e., cognitive appraisal and coping methods), as well as family processes (i.e., family conflict and parent psychopathology). While the TSC was not supported, several preliminary results were found. Results indicated that family conflict (β = .289, p < .05) may have mediated the relationship between children’s overall adjustment at 4-months and parent-report of child internalizing symptoms at 11-months post-fire (β = .235, p > .05). Avoidant coping strategies (β = .294, p < .05) also may have mediated the relationship between child anxiety/depression at 4-months and PTSD symptoms at outcome (β = .246, p > .05). Furthermore, an interaction effect was found between parent report of child and adolescent internalizing symptoms and children and adolescents’ self-reports of religious avoidance. Finally, a moderation effect was also found between children and adolescents’ self-reports of their overall adjustment and self-reports of their active coping strategies. These results suggest a transactional relationship among family environmental variables and individual child adaptational processes which may predict adjustment outcomes.

Appraisal, Residential Fire, Adolescents, Children, Family Environment, Coping, Religious Coping