ECU psychology professor receives $200,000 grant to study people affected by Hurricane Florence

Dr. Heather Littleton, ECU professor of psychology, is the primary investigator on a $200,000 National Science Foundation RAPID grant awarded to study residents in four rural North Carolina counties affected by Hurricane Florence.

Dr. Heather Littleton, ECU professor of psychology, is the primary investigator on a $200,000 National Science Foundation RAPID grant awarded to study residents in four rural North Carolina counties affected by Hurricane Florence. (Contributed photos)

An East Carolina University researcher will undertake a study of residents of four rural North Carolina counties affected by Hurricane Florence, thanks to a nearly $200,000 RAPID grant from the National Science Foundation.

The study is being led by Dr. Heather Littleton, ECU professor of psychology and principal investigator on the grant. Littleton’s research colleagues are Dr. Ashley Allen at the University of North Carolina at Pembroke and Dr. Charles Benight from the University of Colorado Colorado Springs.

“This study is important for several reasons. First, it will allow us to evaluate a new model of adjustment following highly stressful and traumatic events that accounts for the fact that individuals’ adjustment after such events can shift dramatically over short periods of time,” Littleton said. “Second, it focuses on the importance of both individual and social factors in affecting adjustment. Understanding the role of these two types of factors will assist in the development of effective individual and community-based interventions for those residing in disaster-affected areas.”

Over the course of six months, Littleton and her team will survey 300 hurricane-affected individuals residing in rural areas who are generally underrepresented in research. These areas include Bladen, Columbus, Robeson and Scotland counties and will focus on individuals’ adjustment, coping and social support following Hurricane Florence. Participants will complete online surveys and brief, daily questions about how they are managing hurricane-related stress.

Researchers will examine the ways in which individuals’ adjustment following highly stressful and traumatic events can change over time, as well as the extent to which individual factors (like people’s belief in their ability to successfully manage stress) and social factors (like the extent to which others are helping them manage their stress) affect these changes.

Littleton and her colleagues will give presentations in the affected communities and assist those residents experiencing long-term stress after Hurricane Florence. Additional information about Littleton’s study is available at http://go.ecu.edu/reach.

 

-by Lacey L. Gray, University Communications