Date of Award

2014

Degree Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)

Department

Psychology

Abstract

Exposure to community violence is a pressing public health issue that disproportionately impacts poor, urban, and ethnic minority youth. It has been associated with a multitude of negative externalizing and internalizing symptoms, most frequently with posttraumatic stress. This study investigates the role that posttraumatic stress has in mediating the relation between exposure to community violence and other adjustment difficulties. Moreover, because not all adolescents experience these difficulties in the face of significant violence exposure, the study examines the moderating role of family cohesion and support in buffering the effect of violence and posttraumatic stress on later adjustment. A sample of 268 low-income, urban, African American sixth graders living in high crime neighborhoods participated in a three-year longitudinal study measuring the effects of community violence exposure. Family cohesion and daily family support exhibited a protective-stabilizing or buffering effect for several of the proposed outcomes. Posttraumatic stress was shown to mediate the effect of witnessing community violence on subsequent internalizing symptoms and aggression. However, the strength of these indirect effects was dependent on level of family cohesion. The findings provide evidence in support for interventions provided at both individual and family levels. Mental health providers working with this population should be aware of the intertwined nature of chronic exposure to community violence, posttraumatic stress, and subsequent maladaptive outcomes.

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Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 License.

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