Publication Date



Open access

Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PHD)


Educational and Psychological Studies (Education)

Date of Defense


First Committee Member

Robert C. McMahon

Second Committee Member

Robert A. Halberstein

Third Committee Member

Kent F. Burnett

Fourth Committee Member

Daniel J. Feaster


The purpose of this study was to examine general life stressors and emotion-focused and problem-focused coping strategies as prospective predictors of psychological distress in a sample of 209, low-income, urban, HIV-positive, African-American women. A secondary aim was to determine whether coping strategies mediated the relationship between life stressors and psychological distress. This study involved a secondary data analysis from a longitudinal National Institutes of Health (NIH) funded, randomized, family therapy efficacy study (Structural Ecosystems Therapy [SET]; Szapocznik et al., 2004). Participants completed self-report measures, including the Brief Symptom Inventory, Brief Cope (adapted), and Difficult Life Circumstances, as measures of psychological distress, problem-focused and emotion-focused coping, and general life stressors, respectively. These measures were completed at baseline, and at 3, 6, 9, and 18-month follow-up assessments. Results from longitudinal, cross-lagged, path model analyses provided some modest support regarding the hypothesis relating amount of life stressors to subsequent level of psychological distress symptoms. Results of the coping path models failed to support the hypotheses relating problem-focused coping and emotion-focused coping to subsequent distress (Hypotheses 2 and 3). Furthermore, the lack of direct associations between coping strategies and distress prohibited the examination of problem-focused and emotion-focused coping strategies as possible mediators in the relationship between life stressors and psychological distress. Results and implications are discussed.


Life Stress; Path Analysis; Emotion Focused Coping; Problem Focused Coping; HIV-infected