Date of Award

12-2016

Degree Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Arts

Major

Psychology

Major Professor

Chris Elledge

Committee Members

Gregory L. Stuart, Erin E. Hardin

Abstract

Objective: Poor family functioning and parenting practices are often linked to poor adjustment outcomes for children and adolescents. We examined the association between relational and contextual family environment variables and adjustment outcomes in an understudied sample of rural Appalachian youth. Also examined was whether extracurricular involvement moderated the relationship between these variables. Method: Participants were 367 adolescents from multiple high schools (grades 9-12) in an Appalachian region of rural East Tennessee. Self-report measures were used to assess internalizing and externalizing problems, family relationships, extracurricular activity, and health risk behaviors; truancy data was collected from academic records. Results: As expected, family cohesion and moral-religiosity promoted positive outcomes for youth, while family conflict emerged as a risk-inducing factor. Significant interactions were found between both moral-religiosity and cohesion and extracurricular activity when predicting truancy, revealing extracurricular involvement as an important contributor to reductions in truant behavior. Family expressiveness was predictive of increased truancy, while extracurricular involvement appeared to strengthen this relationship. Extracurricular activity also enhanced the relationship between family conflict and substance use in this sample and negated the protective effects of family cohesion, leading to increased substance use in both instances. Conclusions: Findings offer preliminary support for the notion that moral-religiosity may serve a particularly important protective role for low-income rural youth. Further exploration is needed with regard to the varied impact of extracurricular involvement on outcomes in this sample.

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