The relationship between internal resilience, smoking, alcohol use, and depression symptoms in emerging adults transitioning out of child welfare

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Child Abuse and Neglect, 37(1): 22-32
Objective: It is well established that child maltreatment reflects a context of risk for multiple negative outcomes. Identifying factors that protect against negative outcomes is important for the development of strengths-based approaches that emphasize resilience, particularly for youth transitioning out of the child welfare system. The current study examined the relationship between an internal resilience measure, the Connor-Davidson Resilience Scale (CD-RISC; Connor & Davidson, 2003), and several external measures of resilience and behavioral outcomes (tobacco use and dependence, alcohol use and problems, and depression symptoms). In addition, two models of resilience were examined in the context of child maltreatment: a compensatory model and a risk-protection model. Methods: Ninety-three emerging adults (ages 18–25) who were making the transition out of child welfare completed self-report measures of child maltreatment, internal resilience (CD-RISC), external resilience (academic achievement, religious and community involvement, monitoring by caregivers, and presence of an adult mentor), alcohol and tobacco use, and depression symptoms. Results: Internal resilience was significantly associated with involvement in religion and community, and monitoring by caregivers. In addition, internal resilience was negatively associated with past year smoking and nicotine dependence, and with symptoms of depression. Hierarchical regression analyses were conducted to examine the direct and interaction effects of resilience on depression symptoms in the context of child maltreatment. When internal resilience was added to the model, it made a significant contribution to depression scores over and above child maltreatment (physical, sexual, and emotional abuse; emotional neglect). In addition, there was a significant Sexual Abuse × Resilience interaction, wherein high resilience was associated with a reduction in depression scores at higher levels of sexual abuse. Conclusions: These findings support internal resilience as both a compensatory and protective factor for depression symptoms in the context of sexual abuse among emerging adults transitioning out of child welfare. Prevention and early intervention within child welfare should include strengthening internal resilience, with continued monitoring of competencies through the transition from adolescence to emerging adulthood.
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