Date of Award

Summer 2016

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)




Clinical Psychology

First Advisor

Grych, John

Second Advisor

Gerdes, Alyson

Third Advisor

Vaughan Van Hecke, Amy


The present study examined supportive relationships with parents, teachers, peers, and neighbors as protective for youths exposed to violence. To explore how support promotes resilience, four potential mediators were examined: secure attachment, adaptive coping, processing traumatic experiences with a supportive person (parent, teacher, friend, or community adult), and an optimistic outlook on life. An at-risk sample of 107 students (71% male) aged 8-19 years (M=15) who were predominantly African American completed measures of violence exposure, social support, attachment security, coping ability, trauma-processing, and optimism. Resilience was assessed with multiple measures that included self-esteem, competence in several domains (social, scholastic, athletic, and creative), and lower levels of externalizing and internalizing symptoms. Together, social support from parents, teachers, peers, and neighbors accounted for significant variance in resilience. Additionally, attachment security, processing trauma with a parent, processing trauma with a friend, adaptive coping, and optimism significantly predicted resilience. Of the four mediators that were examined, processing trauma with a parent and having a more optimistic outlook mediated the relationship between social support and resilience. These results highlight seeking out a parent to process a traumatic or stressful life event and having a positive outlook as a first step in understanding how supportive others can help promote adaptive functioning in youths exposed to violence.