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The Role of Peers in the Relation Between Hurricane Exposure and Ataques de Nervios Among Puerto Rican Adolescents

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Although a relation between disaster exposure and ataques de nervios (ataques) has been established in adult samples, little is known about this among youth, including factors that may moderate this relation. This study examined the role of the peer context in the relation between exposure to Hurricane Georges and experiencing a past year and lifetime ataques among a representative community sample of 905 youth (N = 476 boys and 429 girls; ages 11-18) residing in Puerto Rico. Data were gathered from 1999-2000 in Puerto Rico, 12-27 months following Hurricane Georges. Logistic regression analyses found that peer violence significantly predicted experiencing an ataque in the past year. Hurricane exposure and peer violence were both significant predictors of a lifetime experience of an ataque. An interaction was found between hurricane exposure and peer violence, indicating that hurricane exposure was significantly related to a lifetime experience of an ataque among adolescents who do not report associating with violent peers. For participants reporting high levels of peer violence, hurricane exposure did not add additional risk for a lifetime experience of an ataque. Understanding the influence of peers in the relation between hurricane exposure and experiencing an ataque may assist in planning developmentally and culturally sensitive response plans.

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