The role of fortitude in relation to exposure to violence among adolescents living in lower socio-economic areas in South Africa
Pretorius, Tyrone B.
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OBJECTIVE: There is compelling evidence that a significant proportion of adolescents exposed to violence do not develop trauma-related symptoms, but adapt successfully. This differential vulnerability has propelled research into identifying factors that promote coping. This study focused on the role of fortitude in the relationship between violence and trauma-related symptoms among South African adolescents living in two low-income communities. Fortitude is derived from positive cognitive appraisals of the self, the family and external sources of support. METHOD: Adolescents (n = 498) completed an adapted version of the Harvard Trauma Scale (HTS) and the Fortitude Questionnaire (FORQ). RESULTS: Moderated regression analysis demonstrated that fortitude had a health-sustaining and stress- buffering role. Adolescents who displayed high levels of fortitude had lower levels of trauma symptoms in relation to exposure to violence (stress-buffering) and were able to maintain their levels of wellbeing irrespective of the nature and extent of such exposure (health-sustaining). CONCLUSION: The study provides evidence for fortitude as a protective factor by highlighting the role of specific cognitive appraisals related to fortitude in facilitating adaptation in relation to trauma. The study also underscores the relevance of using clinical interventions that target problematic cognitive appraisals and strengthen perceptions of coping.