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Understanding Correlates of Well-being in Urban African American Youth Open Access

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Youth in many urban areas in the United States are exposed to adversities that could severely limit their chances for successful transition into adulthood, such as socioeconomic disadvantage (Brody et al., 2001), delinquent peers (Brody et al., 2002), and negative life events (Attar et al., 1994). Understanding factors that promote well-being among youth exposed to trauma or stressful life events, particularly urban African American youth is essential in reducing mental health disparities that impact this vulnerable population. Well-being is defined by the CDC as the presence of positive emotions and moods, the absence of negative emotions, and satisfaction with life, fulfillment and positive functioning. African American youth are disproportionately represented on almost every indicator of wellbeing. The presented research explored to what extent individual, environmental, and supportive factors influence well-being among urban African-American youth who have been exposed to traumatic events. The research employed an ecological approach to understanding the interrelated factors that influence well-being among African-American youth in urban environments. In addition, the researcher utilized the Integrative Model for the study of developmental competencies in minority children (Coll et al. 1996; Garbarino, Dubrow, Kostelny & Pardo, 1992) and the Social Disorganization Theory (Laumann, 1970; Shaw & McKay, 1942; Sutherland, 1939) to further explore the role that environment and social factors have on well-being of urban African American youth. This cross-sectional study sought to assess adolescents' well-being as a result of exposure to traumatic events. The sample consisted of 343 African American adolescent ages 13 to 21 living in the District of Columbia. Descriptive statistics, linear regression and Structured Equation Model were used to answer the proposed research questions. Several significant results were found in the study. Prior trauma was associated with well-being in unique ways. Gender and the frequency of prior trauma exposure were related. An unexpected finding was the absence of a relationship between age and self-efficacy. Lastly, parental support, namely maternal encouragement was a significant predictor of well-being however did not mediate the relationship between well-being and trauma exposure. Implications for clinicians and areas of future research are discussed.

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