Adverse experiences and positive and negative responses among Appalachian young people

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There is limited research on adverse childhood experiences among rural communities in the United States. The purpose of the study was to identify the types of events that Appalachian young people self-identified as low-point life experiences and examine how they responded and coped with those experiences. The study analyzed narratives collected from 71 young people, aged 12–24, who participated in a mixed-methods study on resilience and psychosocial strengths among Southern Appalachian communities. Interviews were recorded, transcribed, and coded using qualitative data analysis software. Young people reported several types of adversities, including loss and death, violence exposure and victimization, parent separation and divorce, school difficulties, and physical and mental health problems. Some young people reported “compounded” low-point experiences, similar to polytrauma, with the occurrence of multiple negative events either from two or more types of adversities or involving multiple people. Young people described a variety of positive and negative responses to their low-point experiences. Positive responses involved leisure activities, coping strategies, religious coping and spirituality, and support from family, friends, and professionals. Some positive strategies were tied to Appalachian culture and values. Negative responses included risky and aggressive behaviors, suicidal ideation, and social isolation. A few young people described a transition from using negative to positive strategies, supporting a dynamic process of resilience building. Findings inform the development of strength-based and resilience-focused interventions for Appalachian young people and families. (PsycInfo Database Record (c) 2022 APA, all rights reserved)

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