Got hope? A moderator for trauma in adolescents exposed to violence

Tammy S. Saltzman-Gorn (2003)

This study explores the role of hope as a protective factor in adolescents exposed to varying degrees of community, family and school violence. One hundred and forty nine high school students from a small urban town in New England, enrolled in either the mainstream or the alternative high school program, participated in this study by completing empirically validated self-report measures in the school setting. Studies have examined the role of resilience in protecting against the development of psychological distress for individuals exposed to traumatic events (Masten & Reed, 2002; Roberts, Brown, Johnson & Reinke, 2002; Seligman, 2002). However, no studies have specifically focused on the role of hope as a protective factor which could potentially alter the psychological impact of violent events. Hope is defined as an enduring disposition related to an individual's beliefs in their capabilities to initiate and sustain movement towards goals (agency) and to produce workable routes to achieve them (pathway) (Snyder, 1994). Descriptive, correlation, and regression analyses were used to explore the data set to determine whether adolescents with higher levels of hope would present less psychological distress than those adolescents with lower levels of hope exposed to similar degrees of violence. Results indicate that although exposure to violence accounts for a significant amount of variance in predicting trauma related symptoms, the most significant factor is the interaction effect of exposure to violence and pathway. This suggests that an individual's belief in their ability to produce a pathway to their goal is significant in moderating the impact of traumatic events. Further, the main effects of gender and agency were also found to be significant by accounting for a small degree of variance in predicting trauma symptoms.