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The role of cumulative risk and armed conflict exposure in adolescent psychological symptoms in Turkey

Research output: Contribution to Journal/MagazineJournal articlepeer-review

E-pub ahead of print
<mark>Journal publication date</mark>5/04/2024
<mark>Journal</mark>Journal of research on adolescence : the official journal of the Society for Research on Adolescence
Publication StatusE-pub ahead of print
Early online date5/04/24
<mark>Original language</mark>English


Exposure to risk factors and adversity may cause immediate, and sometimes prolonged, psychological symptoms in adolescents. Identifying universal and specific risk factors in a particular context and examining their cumulative effects is crucial for understanding the mechanisms underlying psychological symptoms and informing about strategies for intervention. Using concurrent measures, the current study aimed to examine the role of armed conflict experiences and cumulation of other risk factors (e.g., maternal psychological symptoms, socioeconomic indicators) in predicting adolescent psychological symptoms in an underresearched community. The sample included 161 adolescents (54.7% female) aged 11–14 years (M = 12.36, SD = 1.27) and their mothers living in the east of Turkey. The cumulative risk index was calculated by summing the standardized scores of the corresponding factors. Hierarchical multiple regression analyses were conducted to predict internalizing and externalizing symptoms among adolescents by introducing demographic variables (age, gender) in the first step, armed conflict experiences and cumulative risk in the second step, and their interaction in the final step. Results showed that the levels of internalizing and externalizing symptoms were predicted by gender, armed conflict experience and cumulative risk. Being a girl was associated with higher levels of internalizing symptoms and lower levels of externalizing symptoms. Higher levels of internalizing and externalizing symptoms were predicted by exposure to armed and cumulative risk. After controlling for other factors, the interaction of armed conflict experience and cumulative risk significantly predicted externalizing, but not internalizing symptoms. These findings suggested that cumulative risk was a stronger predictor of psychological symptoms, and further amplified the strength of the association between armed conflict experiences and externalizing symptoms. These findings can be used in the formulation of intervention strategies and policies to promote psychological well-being in adolescents living in armed conflict zones under multiple risks.