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50 Religion and spirituality: benefits for latino adolescents exposed to community violence
  1. Francheska Alers-Rojas,
  2. Rosanne Jocson,
  3. Kayla Fike,
  4. Rosario Ceballo
  1. US University of Michigan


Purpose Latino adolescents face elevated risks of exposure to community violence, both as witnesses and victims. The negative effects of community violence exposure on youth’s psychological outcomes are well-documented; however, less is known about culturally-relevant factors that might buffer against this risk. This study examines how different aspects of religiosity and spirituality might protect Latino adolescents who are exposed to chronic urban violence.

Methods The sample included 223 Latino ninth grade students attending three high schools located in two economically disadvantaged Northeastern cities in the United States. Students completed self-report questionnaires about lifetime exposure to community violence (witnessing violence and personal victimisation), psychological well-being (depression and PTSD symptoms), and three aspects of religiosity: spiritual experience, perceptions of religious importance at home, and religious involvement.

Results Moderation analyses showed interactive effects between community violence exposure and different aspects of religiosity on symptoms of depression and posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) after controlling for demographic factors. Both witnessing violence and personal victimisation were associated with symptoms of depression and PTSD at low and average reports of spirituality, but not at high levels of spirituality. Witnessing violence was associated with PTSD symptoms at low and average ratings of importance of religion at home, but not at high ratings of religious importance at home. Lastly, witnessing violence was associated with depressive symptoms at low and average levels of religious involvement, but not at high levels of religious involvement.

Conclusions Spirituality, valuing religion at home, and religious involvement serve as protective factors against the negative effects of community violence exposure on Latino adolescents’ psychological functioning.

Significance/contributions to injury and violence prevention science Religious and spiritual development should be supported in intervention programs aimed at reducing the negative impact of violence exposure on adolescents’ psychological well-being.

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