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27-03-2017 | Original Paper | Uitgave 7/2017

Journal of Child and Family Studies 7/2017

Cumulative Risk, Emotion Dysregulation, and Adjustment in South African Youth

Journal of Child and Family Studies > Uitgave 7/2017
Wendy Kliewer, Basil J. Pillay, Karl Swain, Nishola Rawatlal, Alicia Borre, Thirusha Naidu, Lingum Pillay, Thiroshini Govender, Cathy Geils, Lena Jäggi, Tess K. Drazdowski, Anna W. Wright, Naseema Vawda


Research on cumulative risk is growing, however, little work has occurred in low- or middle-income countries, and few studies have focused on processes linking risk to outcomes. This study explored relations between components of cumulative risk and adjustment in a sample of 324 South African youth (M age = 13.11 years; SD = 1.54 years; 65% female; 56% Black/African; 14% Colored; 23% Indian; 7% White), and tested competing models of emotion dysregulation as a mediator or moderator of risk—adjustment links. Data was collected from youth and their female caregivers during home interviews. Structural equation models and regression analyses accounting for age and sex contributions revealed that emotion dysregulation mediated associations between sociodemographic risk and internalizing symptoms, externalizing problem behavior, and drug use severity, and moderated links between psychosocial risk and internalizing symptoms and externalizing problem behavior. For the mediator models, sociodemographic risk was associated with impaired emotion regulation, which in turn was linked with heightened adjustment difficulties. For the moderator models, psychosocial risk was linked with adjustment problems only when emotion dysregulation was high. These data indicate the importance of disentangling components of cumulative risk. Future research within the South African cultural context might build on these findings by adapting and testing school- or family-based prevention or intervention programs that include modules on emotion regulation.

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