US Statement of Purpose Youth exposure to community violence is associated with adverse outcomes, yet not all exposed youth respond adversely. Dimensions of exposure may relate to response; evidence suggests that having a relationship with the victim and perpetrator of community violence is connected to worse outcomes, yet is limited by cross-sectional designs and sparse attention to the perpetrator of violence. This study examined the relationship proximity to the victim and perpetrator of violence and adolescent outcomes in a high-risk sample. Sex differences in these relations are also explored.
Methods We used the LONGSCAN dataset, a 5-site, pooled sample of children. Our sample was limited to youth ages 12 and 14 who reported some lifetime violence exposure (n=720). This sample was approximately half male, predominantly low-income, and of diverse ethnic backgrounds. Six items assessed witnessed violence, including details about the victim and perpetrator. The Child Behaviour Checklist assessed internalising and externalising symptoms. Regression analyses determined whether relationship proximity to the perpetrator and victim of community violence differentiated youth outcomes and whether sex moderated these associations.
Results Witnessed violence perpetrated by a stranger was associated with lower social competency, but only among females. Witnessed parental victimisation predicted higher externalising and internalising problems among both males and females.
Conclusions That witnessed community violence against a parent negatively impacted both males and females underscores the traumatic nature of seeing a parent harmed. In contrast, the female-specific relation between witnessed violence perpetrated by a stranger and social competency may reflect that males are desensitised to witnessing violence by strangers given their higher rates of involvement in violence.
Contributions to Prevention Science Together, our results suggest that understanding relationships with victims and perpetrators of community violence is an important to understanding response. Future research should further elucidate sex differences in youths’ responses to witnessed violence.
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