Statement of Purpose This study aimed to identify factors associated with perception of minimized life expectancy in assault-injured youth, a population at-risk for future assault-related injuries.
Methods/Approach Assault-injured youth (n=188; ages 10–15 years; 61% male; 96% black) were recruited from two urban pediatric emergency departments (Baltimore, MD, Philadelphia, PA) to participate in a mentoring intervention to prevent violence. At enrollment, youth were asked ‘Do you think you will live to 35?’; youth responding ‘yes’ (optimistic life expectancy) were compared to youth responding ‘maybe’ (uncertain life expectancy) using descriptive statistics, t-tests and chi-square analysis.
Results Although there were no differences between the groups in age, gender or socioeconomic status, youth with an uncertain life expectancy (31.4%, n=59) were more likely to have a family member injured by violence (61.0% vs. 43.4%, p=0.028) or in a gang (42.1% vs. 19.2%, p=0.002) and less likely to take steps to avoid a fight (57.6% vs. 76.7%, p=0.01) or think about consequences before acting (70.7% vs. 87.6%, p=0.007). These youth were also more likely to believe that revenge is a good thing (47.4% vs. 29.0%, p=0.019), and think about suicide (42.9% vs. 7.9%, p<0.001). Finally, youth with an uncertain life expectancy felt less likely to go to college or have a successful career, and more likely to have difficulty finding a good job in adulthood.
Conclusions One third of assault-injured early adolescents expressed uncertainty of living until age 35. Several risk factors and behaviors were identified as being associated with possible risk of premature death.
Significance and Contributions To Injury And Violence Prevention Science Perception of risk of premature death is present in a sizable proportion of assault-injured youth. Future work should investigate the impact that an uncertain life expectancy has on future behaviors and response to violence prevention interventions.
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