Loyola University Chicago

Department of Psychology


Cara DiClemente

Cara DiClemente
Training Track: Clinical
Lab: Risk and Resilience Lab
Advisor: Maryse Richards, Ph.D.
Office: Coffey 442/443
Webpage: Research Gate 


I am interested in discovering potential protective factors and assessing interventions for reducing externalizing problems in underserved youth exposed to trauma.

Masters Thesis Title

Coping with Exposure to Community Violence: Assessing the Protective Effects of Behavioral Avoidance on Delinquency in Low-Income Urban Adolescents

Masters Thesis Abstract

Exposure to community violence has disabling effects on the mental health, behavior, and academic achievement of many youth in the US, with especially high rates of exposure for African American adolescents from underserved, urban communities (Cooley-Quille et al., 2001; Fowler et al., 2009; Zimmerman & Messner, 2013; Voisin, 2007). Community violence is strongly linked to externalizing problems such as aggression and delinquency, suggesting a great need for preventing and reducing juvenile misconduct in these communities (Fowler et al., 2009; McMahon & Washburn, 2003; Wagstaff et al., 2016). In the cognitive-transactional model of stress and coping, youth engage in particular coping strategies in response to community violence exposure, with certain strategies that may exacerbate or reduce externalizing symptoms (Forsythe & Compas, 1987; Connor-Smith et al., 2000). Recent literature suggests that avoidant coping, specifically behavioral avoidance, may be most effective and adaptive for youth that are exposed to uncontrollable stressors like violence in their neighborhood (Grant et al., 2000; Rosario et al., 2003; Carothers et al., 2016). The current study will investigate the utility of four different types of coping strategies (behavioral avoidance, behavioral approach, cognitive avoidance, and cognitive approach) in reducing aggression and delinquency in 284 African American youth (mean age = 11.65, 59.9% female) from low-income, high crime communities. The study will also explore the influence of gender on these effects under the presumption that boys may benefit more from behavioral avoidance than girls. This research will serve to fill several gaps in understanding how youth adaptively cope with exposure to community violence so as to inform future therapeutic interventions for externalizing behaviors.

Masters Thesis Committee

Maryse Richards, Noni Gaylord-Harden