Community Perceptions of Toxic Stress: A Phenomenological Approach
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Publisher:The Ohio State University
Series/Report no.:The Ohio State University. College of Nursing Honors Theses; 2018
Background: Toxic stress involves life course exposure to adversity without adequate support or protective factors. This adversity begins in childhood and continues through adolescence and adulthood, and may occur in form of abuse, neglect, exposure to violence or prolonged economic hardship that results in protracted biological and psychological alterations in the lives of affected persons. These alterations have negative consequences for persons' overall health, well-being, and positive life course progression. Research indicates that the presence of toxic stress may be more detrimental across the life course for persons from African American populations living in poor, stress-filled communities. The purpose of this study was to ascertain the perceptions of African American adults regarding stress and traumatic events occurring in their environment. Methods: A phenomenological approach was used to gather information on African American participants' interpretations of their lived experiences regarding stress and traumatic events within their lives. Participants aged 18- 70 years were recruited from a near eastside community in Columbus, Ohio because this community has a large number of African American adults and experience a high incidence of stressful and traumatic events that occur. A business owner in the community was a gatekeeper who helped to recruit participants for the study. Participants signed up for the date and time that was convenient for them. Focus groups were conducted with participants by two advanced practice mental health nurses and two senior nursing students. A neighbor provided the location where the groups were conducted. Sessions were videotaped, transcribed, and analyzed for emerging themes regarding participants' health. Results: The emerging themes included the high amounts of violence and lack of resources in their community that have led to constant high levels of stress and anxiety, concern about how this affected children as well as themselves, and providing help to children and adolescents to prevent harm. Conclusions: Results from this phenomenological study supports literature that toxic stress can lead to poor overall health. Additional studies need to be conducted within similar communities in order to further understand the effect that toxic stress has on African Americans within community settings.
First Place at the 2018 Denman Undergraduate Research Forum
Academic Major: Nursing
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