Date of Award

12-10-2018

Degree Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Department

Psychology

First Advisor

Erin Tone, PhD

Second Advisor

Bekh Bradley-Davino, PhD

Third Advisor

Lindsey Cohen, PhD

Fourth Advisor

Kevin Swartout, PhD

Abstract

Given children’s ready access to media, particularly to sensationalized media reports of violent/tragic news (Pew Research Center, 2013), it is important to understand whether and how exposure to this news affects children’s psychological functioning. Studies in the general population have found that media exposure to violence correlates positively with anxiety and posttraumatic stress (PTS) symptoms in children (Becker-Blease, Finkelhor, & Turner, 2008). However, little is known about the impact such exposure may have on children who are vulnerable to myriad health and mental health problems as a consequence of multiple traumas (Fowler, Tompsett, Braceiszewski, Jaques-Tiura, & Baltes, 2009). Moreover, given evidence that parents may be able to influence children’s responses to media and, possibly, to soften the impact of exposure (Otto et al., 2007), it is important to delineate caregiver practices that may have a buffering effect, particularly for youths from vulnerable groups. In the present study I assessed, in an urban sample of 66 Black mothers and their children (ages 8-12), the relationship among caregiver practices regarding violent news media exposure (i.e., Reassuring Realistically, Controlling Contact, and Scaring for Safety), child anxiety, and frequency of violent news media exposure. Controlling Contact was a significant moderator of the relationship between frequency of violent news media exposure and child anxiety, such that higher amounts of control were associated with lower rates of anxiety. Also, results indicated that Reassuring Realistically and Scaring for Safety caregiver practices were not significantly associated with children’s anxiety. This study provides one step toward a better understanding of the roles that parenting practices regarding children’s violent news media exposure play in promoting child mental health in highly traumatized families.

Available for download on Wednesday, August 19, 2020

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