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Adaptive coping strategies of African American kinship caregivers: An examination of social support, spirituality, stress, and depression

Pamela L. Thornton, MSW, PhD, Social Environment and Health Program / Institute for Social Research, University of Michigan, P.O. Box 1248, Office 3360, Ann Arbor, MI 48106-1248, 734-647-9611, pthornt@umich.edu

Over the past decade, the public child welfare system has increasingly relied upon female African American caregivers to provide out-of-home placements for relative children removed from their homes because of child maltreatment. A growing body of research reveals that women who raise relative children are at risk of psychological distress, particularly depression. Depressed caregivers pose a serious public health concern for women and children in state care. African American women often use social support and spirituality to foster emotional resilience. Drawing upon concepts of the Transactional Stress-Coping Model and Africentric Paradigm, this study examined the role social support and spirituality played in mediating or moderating the relationship between caregiver stress and depressive symptomatology.

Data from an on-going Title IV-E federal demonstration project on families in Marylandís foster care system were analyzed. The sample included 116 African American women. A Social Embeddedness/Sense of Community Scale and Density of Support Scale measured social support; the Brief RCOPE and Organizational Religiousness items measured spirituality; a Cumulative Stress Index measured caregiver stressors; the CES-D measured depressive symptomatology.

Twenty-seven percent of the women had a positive screening for depression. Increased caregiver stress was associated with increased levels of depressive symptomatology (r = .373, p < .0005). Spirituality in the form of negative spiritual coping strategies partially mediated the relationship between caregiver stress and depressive symptomatology. Lower levels of church attendance and neighborhood involvement were associated with elevated levels of depressive symptomatology (p < .10).

Implications of the research for women and childrenís health are reviewed.

Learning Objectives: At the conclusion of this session, the participant (learner) in this session will be able to

Keywords: Coping, African American

Presenting author's disclosure statement:
I do not have any significant financial interest/arrangement or affiliation with any organization/institution whose products or services are being discussed in this session.

Midlife Health and Wellness

The 132nd Annual Meeting (November 6-10, 2004) of APHA