Loyola University Chicago

Department of Psychology


Suzanna So

Training Track: Clinical
Lab: PACCT Lab  
Advisor: Noni Gaylord-Harden, Ph.D. 
Office: Coffey Hall 248


Suzanna is interested in the effect of community violence exposure on the mental health needs of low-income, urban minority youth. Within the PACCT Lab, she is examining different protective factors that can be targeted in intervention and policy research in order to better aid these populations.

Masters Thesis Title

Examining the effects of coping strategies specific to community violence exposure among African American adolescents

Masters Thesis Abstract

Variability in exposure to community violence (ECV) and aggressive behaviors in African American youth from urban communities can be attributed to general coping, but these studies have been inconclusive. Recent qualitative research identified four types of coping that are specific to ECV; however, quantitative research is needed to understand the adaptiveness of these strategies. The current study examined the factor structure of a measure for ECV-specific coping strategies. The current study also assessed how ECV-specific coping was associated with ECV and externalizing behaviors. Data from the current study were derived from an archival dataset comprised of 594 African American adolescents. Results from a confirmatory factor analysis revealed that each subscale demonstrated a good fit with the data. Moderation analyses demonstrated that certain types of ECV-specific coping may interact with ECV and gender to protect against outcomes. Thus, one must consider their unique contexts when working with youth affected by ECV.

Masters Thesis Committee

Noni Gaylord-Harden and Maryse Richards 

Dissertation Title

The longitudinal relationships among exposure to community violence, trauma, delinquency, and future orientation from childhood to late adolescence

Dissertation Abstract

From a developmental psychopathology and ecological-transactional perspective, different reciprocal relationships occur throughout childhood and lead to a complex interplay of factors that influence adolescent outcomes.  For African American youth, exposure to community violence (ECV) continues to be one of the most pressing public health concerns, leading to a range of maladaptive outcomes.  However, little is known about the reciprocal associations between ECV and outcomes throughout childhood and adolescence.  The aims of the current study were to examine 1) the longitudinal, reciprocal relationships of ECV, delinquency, and trauma symptoms from middle childhood to late adolescence, 2) how future orientation during mid-adolescence may mediate or moderate the relationship between early adolescent ECV and late adolescent outcomes, and 3) parental factors that may promote future orientation by buffering against the negative effects of ECV.  Data from the current study focused on a subset of 721 African American youth from a publicly available archival dataset (i.e., Longitudinal Studies of Child Abuse and Neglect).  Results from autoregressive cross-lagged modeling suggested some reciprocal effects among the study variables over time, and longitudinal patterns slightly differed for males and females.  Results from moderation analyses also indicated that family future orientation was a significant moderator for ECV and delinquent behaviors, while education and career future orientation was a significant moderator for ECV and defensive avoidance.  However, mediation analyses were not found to be significant, and parental involvement did not significantly impact the effects of future orientation on outcomes.  The current study highlights the importance of examining youth functioning and outcomes by taking their unique ecological context and developmental period into account.

Dissertation Committee

Noni Gaylord-Harden, Catherine Santiago, Scott Leon, & James Garbarino