Copying styles and defense mechanisms in adults vicariuosly exposed to violent crime : an explorative study.
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The primary objective of this research was to initiate exploratory research into the coping styles and defense mechanisms of adults vicariously exposed to violent crime. This research focused on determining the presence, nature and complexity of symptoms in those vicariously exposed to violent crime. Gaining an understanding of the coping styles and defense mechanisms that individuals who are vicariously exposed to violent crime adopt was also a central focus of this study. A psychodynamic theoretical framework was employed. Situating this research within a broader theory of coping was also necessary. Zeidner and Endler's (1996) integrative conceptual framework was used to understand the coping styles that one adopts as being both dispositional and contextual. Semi-structured, open-ended interviews were conducted with seven respondents (Wengraf,2001). Ulin et al.'s (2002) method of qualitative thematic analysis was used to analyze and interpret data. Emotion-focused coping was found to be the prominent form of coping used by the respondents. It appeared that when problem-focused coping fails to alleviate the individual's anxiety, they then engage in emotion focused coping. Two forms of emotion focused coping were identified: adaptive and pathological emotion focused coping. With regards to vicarious trauma symptoms, a variety of five symptoms were evident across the transcripts. It is also necessary to emphasize that respondents experienced variable combinations of symptoms and generally did not experience all of such symptoms. It was concluded that in the presence of the vicarious exposure to violent crime, participants utilized various defense mechanism (such as: splitting, rationalization, displacement, intellectualization and suppression) which inform their coping style and their experience of symptoms of vicarious trauma.