Loyola University Chicago

Department of Psychology


Emma-Lorraine Bart-Plange

Training Track: Clinical
Lab: Parents and Children Coping Together (PACCT) Lab  
Advisor: Noni Gaylord-Harden, Ph.D. 
Office: Coffey Hall 248


Currently, I study stress and coping with African American youth and families. Other research interests include acculturative stress, coping behaviors of immigrant and refugee youth and families, and public mental health concerns in low and middle income countries (LMICs).  

Masters Thesis Title

The effects of acculturative stress on mental health outcomes of African immigrant and refugee youth: Coping as a moderator 

Masters Thesis Abstract

For immigrant and refugee adolescents, acculturative stress such as social and family conflict may be experienced as a result of the acculturation process (Berry, 2006; Mena, Padilla, & Maldonado, 1987). While research documents that these adolescents demonstrate patterns of associations between acculturative stress and internalizing symptoms, development of coping strategies may help youth to address adverse stressors (Oppedal, Roysamb, & Heyerdahl, 2005; Zimmer-Gembeck & Skinner, 2011). In addition to mainstream coping strategies, culturally-relevant coping strategies may be used by ethnic minorities, particularly those of African descent (Utsey, Brown, & Bolden, 2004). The purpose of the current study was to determine if mainstream and culturally-relevant coping strategies are successful in moderating the deleterious effects of acculturative stress on the mental health of African immigrant and refugee youth.

The current study was comprised of 14 African immigrant and refugee adolescents between the ages of 11-18 (mean age = 14.65; 35.7% female). Participants were recruited from a church and a community-based organization serving immigrants and refugees. Data assessing levels of objective and perceived acculturative stress, use of mainstream and culturally-relevant coping strategies, externalizing and internalizing symptoms was collected. Regression analyses were used to determine whether coping higher acculturative stress levels were related to higher levels of culturally-relevant coping use and if coping moderated the stress outcomes relationship.
Consistent with hypothesis, higher levels of objective acculturative stress were related to higher levels of Maintaining Harmony coping use. Further, status (immigrant vs. refugee) appeared to influence this relationship. No other culturally-relevant strategies were related to acculturative stress. Inconsistent with hypothesis, active and avoidant coping strategies did not moderate the stress-outcomes relationship; however, support seeking coping affected this relationship in a direction different than predicted. Consistent with hypotheses, Maintaining Harmony coping moderated the relationship between objective stress and internalizing/externalizing symptoms. Inconsistent with hypotheses, no other culturally-relevant strategies affected this relationship. Results are discussed with regard to objective and perceived stress and implications of status on these outcomes.

Masters Thesis Committee

Noni Gaylord-Harden and James Garbarino 

Dissertation Title

Cultural Assets and Racial Discrimination: A Person-based Exploration of Culturally Relevant Coping with African American Male Adolescents

Dissertation Abstract

African-American youth from economically-disadvantaged, urban families and communities are disproportionately exposed to stressful life conditions, placing them at increased risk for mental health problems (Gonzales & Kim, 1997; Grant et al., 2000). A subset of a broader domain of the ways children and adolescents adapt to stress is coping (Compas, 1998). Especially within the domain of adolescence, the general pattern of strategies youth use to cope with stress impacts their current and future emotional adjustment (Compas et al., 2001). Coping research with African American youth has found evidence for racial discrimination predicting use of culturally-relevant coping strategies (Gaylord-Harden & Cunningham, 2009) and suggests that low-income African American youths may draw upon other unique and culturally-relevant coping strategies that are not captured on existing measures of universal coping strategies. Culturally-relevant coping strategies attempt to take into account cultural and contextual factors that may affect the manifestation and utilization of coping strategies. Culturally-relevant coping strategies are derived from a particular cultural worldview or orientation (Noh & Kaspar, 2003; Beru, 2002). For African American youth, culturally-relevant coping strategies may be based in an Afrocentric worldview that is rooted in African philosophies and cultural traditions (Utsey, Adams, & Bolden, 2000; Chambers et al., 1998). African American youth possess varying levels of identity with this Africultural orientation (Jagers & Mock, 1993). These coping strategies are reflected in a 34-item measure called the Youth Africultural Coping System Inventory (Y-ACSI; Gaylord-Harden & Utsey, 2007). The four factors of the Y-ACSI include: Emotional Debriefing (managing stress by expressing oneself emotionally and creatively); Spiritual-Centered Coping, (spiritually-based attempts to manage a situation); Maintaining Harmony, (creating a harmonious balance with environmental stimuli and others); and Communalistic/Collectivistic Coping, (coping through relationships with others; Utsey at al., 2000). Given the unique coping patterns of African-American boys, the current study sought to validate the Y-ACSI measure in a sample of African American adolescent males, determine if racial discrimination exposure predicts use of culturally relevant coping strategies, and create latent groups based on coping strategy use and racial discrimination exposure to compare groups on various psychosocial outcomes.

Dissertation Committee

Noni Gaylord-Harden, Helena Dagadu, James Garbarino, and Catherine Santiago