Abstract: Strengths in Understanding Well-Being of Adolescent Survivors of Interpersonal Violence: Buffering or Direct Effects? (Society for Social Work and Research 24th Annual Conference - Reducing Racial and Economic Inequality)

Strengths in Understanding Well-Being of Adolescent Survivors of Interpersonal Violence: Buffering or Direct Effects?

Thursday, January 16, 2020
Supreme Court, ML 4 (Marriott Marquis Washington DC)
* noted as presenting author
Victoria Banyard, PhD, Professor, Rutgers University, New Brunswick, NJ
Katie Edwards, PhD, Associate Professor, University of Nebraska, Lincoln, NE
Background: Adolescents are a high risk age group for interpersonal violence (including bullying, sexual harassment, sexual assault and teen dating violence).  These forms of violence disproportionately affect youth from underrepresented groups. The field of resilience science contains important lessons for building strengths among at-risk youth to promote healthy development among survivors. The current study examined the well-being of students in late middle and early high school in a diverse community where underrepresented groups experience significant health disparities (the Great Plains region of the U.S.).  The study had three aims (1) To describe links between victimization, race and well-being including grades, mattering, depressive symptoms and suicidality, (2) To examine whether race moderated the relationship between strengths and outcomes among a sample of adolescent survivors. We hypothesized that victimization would be linked to less positive outcomes, that youth from historically marginalized groups would report greater victimization and less positive outcomes and that race would moderate the relationship between strengths and outcomes such that youth from underrepresented groups would benefit more from strengths than Caucasian adolescents.

Methods: In-school surveys were given to 1904 youth at two time points in one school year (fall and spring). Youth in grades 7-10 who had active parental permission participated. Youth were from a diverse community and 17% were Native American. We included reliable and valid measures of victimization and outcomes including depression, suicidality, mattering, and a range of strengths (youth voice and connection to community, future orientation, appreciation for diversity, and positive coping). For the current analyses, the sub-sample of 910 students who reported victimization at time 1 was used. Victimization was measured at time 1 while outcomes were used from survey 2, that took place approximately 6 months later.

Results: In bivariate correlations, victimization was related to lower mattering, lower grades, and higher depression and suicide. Contrary to hypotheses, race was not related to victimization but was related to lower mattering and grades, and greater depressive and suicidal symptoms. A series of multiple regressions using interaction terms computed from centered scores on race and a composite index of poly-strengths, found support for a direct effects rather than a buffering model. The composite of strengths and the variable related to race both directly explained variance in outcomes.

Implications: On balance research on resilience and strengths has focused on early childhood. The current study examined strengths in a sample of adolescents and the role such strengths may play in positive youth outcomes over time after victimization. We found that strengths benefitted all victims and may be important to incorporate into intervention efforts with at-risk youth.