Factors that Influence Coping Following Residential Fire: The roles of attributional style and family functioning


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Virginia Tech


Investigations of children's adjustment following the experience of a residential fire or other disaster has indicated that the level of PTSD symptoms experienced by the child victims varies as a function of exposure and degree of loss incurred due to the trauma in a dose-response relationship. Additionally, other variables may interact with the level of exposure and loss to increase or decrease children's risk of posttraumatic symptomatology following the fire. Children's use of coping strategies has also been shown to significantly predict children's level of posttraumatic stress symptomatology. This study examined the mediating role of coping as well as the contributions of children's attributional style and family environment in the explanation of children's posttraumatic symptomatology following residential fire.

In the current study, 108 children and their parents were assessed approximately one to three months and again approximately seven to ten months following their experience of a residential fire. Results indicated that at the second assessment, attributional style served as a moderator between the degree of loss children experienced and children's use of coping strategies. Children with helpless attributional styles reported low levels of active and avoidant coping regardless of their level of loss due to the fire. Children with positive attributional styles reported using low levels of coping only if they also reported low levels of loss; in contrast, those children who reported positive attributional styles and high levels of loss reported using considerably higher levels of coping. In addition, the data indicated that coping acted as a mediator between loss and posttraumatic stress symptoms both at the first and the second assessments. Children's coping activities following a trauma like residential fire may be the avenue through which loss exerts its influence on children's psychological symptoms following residential fire.



disaster, coping, Children, attributional style