Youth, Art, and Life on the Border: An Examination of Coping and Support among Participants in a Migrant Art Program



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This case study examined coping strategies and support systems utilized by 33 children of Hispanic migrant farmworkers from Fabens, Texas. The youth participated in the summer 2011 Creative Kids Incorporated Migrant Program in El Paso, Texas. The study examined how socio-ecological factors, specifically within Creative Kids Inc., help youth to cope with risk factors and aid in the resilience process. This study applied both qualitative and quantitative approaches. The qualitative portion consisted of 12 in-depth program participant interviews, ages 9-15, and observations at Creative Kids Inc. The quantitative portion consisted of a survey that utilized the Brief Adolescent Life Event Scale, the Children Coping Strategies Checklist, and the Multi-Dimensional Support Scale. Thirty-four surveys were distributed, and 33 surveys were analyzed from program participants ages 10-15.

The study found the youth were affected by various risk factors within their environment, such as poverty, separation from family, and school. When adapting to stress, most youth utilized behavioral-based distraction strategies (i.e., listening to music and playing outside) and cognitive-based avoidance strategies (i.e., not thinking about their problem) to cope. The youth did not use active coping strategies as often as avoidance strategies. However, some support seeking strategies were mentioned. Most often, youth sought support from parents and older siblings. While the youth sought support from their teachers, it was mainly in regard to school work. Similarly, youth sought support from Creative Kids Inc. staff concerning their art projects.

Families were beneficial to youth in the coping process, because they provided youth with opportunities for distracting activities as well as some support. Although the youth strongly enjoyed participating in the Migrant Program, they rarely sought support for personal stressors or problems from the staff. Yet, the program provided youth with opportunities to participate in distracting activities, express their feelings, and seek out support.

Despite the lack of literature on children of Hispanic migrant farmworkers and the factors that influence their resilience, this study provided an in-depth description of how they cope with daily life events, what support systems are available to assist in overcoming risks, and provided a basis for understanding the role of support systems in facilitating resiliency among this adolescent group.