The purpose of this project is to examine how a group of low-income parents from New Orleans?most of whom are single African American women?have coped with the effects of Hurricane Katrina. The 1,019 low-income parents in our sample are part of a randomized intervention, started before Hurrican Katrina, that provided members of a randomly-selected treatment group with tuition assistance and academic advising at local community colleges. Because of their participation in this study, we have pre- hurricane information on the health, social networks, and economic status of members of the treatment and control groups. We have already conducted one post-hurricane follow-up survey and set of qualitative interviews, and propose to collect another wave of data shortly after the three-year anniversary of the hurricane. Our focus will be on identifying factors that promote resilience and heighten vulnerability within this group. We will study how pre-hurricane resources and capacities?defined to include mental and physical health, social networks, and economic resources?affect the ability to successfully adjust to a major life trauma. We will study the factors that influence a broad set of outcomes measured over a three-year period following the hurricane, including psychological distress, symptoms of posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), trauma exposure, and the re-establishment of social networks and resumption of employment and educational activities. We will also examine how the children in these families are coping with the effects of the hurricane. Finally, we will examine whether those in the treatment group, who gained additional education education prior to the hurricane, experience better post-hurricane outcomes than those in the control group. This study will contribute to our collective knowledge of the consequences of what may be the worst natural disaster experienced in the United States. The quantitative and qualitative analyses will provide empirical evidence on the effects of the disaster on the health, social and economic status of a vulnerable segment of the population: low income parents and their children. The findings of our research will be relevant to both policy-makers involved in disaster planning, and well as practitioners who treat those who have experienced disaster-related trauma.
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