Erika Felix and Sukkyung You of UC Santa Barbara’s Gevirtz School have been awarded a National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) two-year grant to conduct the study Natural Disaster and Risk of Psychiatric Disorders in Puerto Rican Children. The goal of the study is to understand the family, school, peer, and community experiences that promote or prevent adverse mental health outcomes following a disaster.
Following the 1998 Hurricane Georges disaster that struck Puerto Rico, a database with unique potential to address many of the methodological short-comings of much of previous child disaster mental health research emerged. Felix and You’s two-wave epidemiological study of child and adolescent psychiatric disorders improves upon many prior studies on children’s post-disaster mental health and recovery through its sampling strategy, high quality measurement of psychiatric disorders, breadth and depth of measurement of socio-ecological risk and protective factors, and the use of multiple informants.
This secondary data analysis study will allow the researchers to examine how the recovery environment – particularly how it relates to family, peers, school, and community – influences the relationship between disaster exposure and the development of an internalizing disorder (e.g., anxiety, depression) at 18 and 30 months post-disaster. For instance, the study will assess aspects of family relationship quality over time, its roles as a mediator in the exposure-disorder relationship, and potential moderators of family relationship quality. It will also examine how peer relationships influence risk of psychiatric disorder following a disaster, with a specific focus on the influence of deviant peers and how peer victimization may erode peer support. Beyond family and peers, the study will assess the influence of school violence and efficacy and how living within communities characterized by high levels of violence and poor neighborhood quality impact recovery.
Erika Felix is assistant research faculty at the Center for School-Based Youth Development at UC Santa Barbara and a licensed clinical psychologist. She serves as program evaluator for Santa Barbara County First Five Commission and is co-principal investigator on the longitudinal research project on school readiness that represents a partnership between Santa Barbara First Five, UCSB, and the Santa-Maria Bonita School District. Other research interests include childhood trauma, peer victimization, positive youth development, and disaster mental health.
Sukkyung You is assistant research faculty for the Department of Education and Psychology, at UC Santa Barbara. She received a doctoral degree in the Research Methodology emphasis at UCSB in 2005. For her dissertation, she explored how individual and contextual factors influence adolescents’ school engagement using multilevel growth curve modeling. After graduation, she started teaching and research at UCSB. Her research interests deal with statistical analyses of educational data and various educational issues such as students’ achievement, motivation, and studies of ethnic minority students
The project described was supported by Award Number R03MH085276 from the National Institute of Mental Health. The content is solely the responsibility of the authors and does not necessarily represent the official views of the National Institute of Mental Health or the National Institutes of Health.
[Erika Felix and Sukkyung You are available for interviews; contact George Yatchisin at 805 893 5789]
– end –