Academic journal article The Journal of Negro Education

Parental Involvement as a Moderator to the Relationship between Exposure to Violence and Academic Outcomes among Youth of African Descent

Academic journal article The Journal of Negro Education

Parental Involvement as a Moderator to the Relationship between Exposure to Violence and Academic Outcomes among Youth of African Descent

Article excerpt

In the United States, violent crime has been on a downward trajectory for several years (U.S. Department of Justice, Federal Bureau of Investigation FBI, 2014). This trend includes violence among African American communities. For example, since the 1970s, the number of African American deaths due to firearm-related injury has decreased (Murphy, Xu & Kochanek, 2013). Despite this decrease in overall violence and crime trends, African American youth disproportionately experience more violent situations when compared to the youth of other races and ethnicities in the United States. For instance, in 2011, Black youth reported experiencing more violent risk behaviors (e.g., engaging in physical fights or carrying a weapon) that other races or ethnicities (Murphy, Xu & Kochanek, 2013). Then, in 2012, African American children and adolescents accounted for 45% of the deaths due to firearms, although they only constituted 15% of all children and adolescents in the United States (Children's Defense Fund, 2013). Furthermore, during that same year in the U.S., 46% of all gun injuries were among Black children and adolescents (Children's Defense Fund, 2013). From birth through adolescence, African American youth are at greater risk of falling victim to homicide when compared to other American children (U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Office of the Surgeon General, 2001).

These statistics highlight the risk that African American youth may face by being exposed to community and interpersonal violence. Exposure to community violence can create a harmful environment for African American youth to experience, leading to poor psychosocial and academic outcomes (Buka et al., 2001). For the present study, exposure to violence refers to violence that is witnessed by or inflicted onto an individual, as well as any violence that is experienced indirectly and vicariously in one's ecological system (Hill, 1991). Children exposed to violence have been found to exhibit more externalizing behaviors such as aggression and social withdrawal (Hill & Madhere, 1996), display increased levels of anxiety (Gaylord-Harden, Cunningham & Zelencik, 2011), or in cases of high exposure to victimization, violence exposure can negatively impact an adolescent's self-esteem and lead to higher levels of distress later in one's adult life (Hooven et al., 2012). However, Hooven and colleagues cautioned that the link between exposure to violence and self-esteem needs more investigation.

SELF-ESTEEM

According to the literature, the value of self-esteem to the adolescent is due to its instrumental role in filtering out harmful stressors that stem from the environment and life changes (Turner & Roszell, 1994). Smith and colleagues (1999) suggested that if an African American youth possesses low self-worth then he or she is bound to be less successful in many facets of his or her life, including in school. Therefore, having a positive self-esteem can assist in optimally regulating stressors; whereas having low self-esteem is associated with health problems, depression, substance abuse and other maladaptive behaviors (Crocker & Wolfe 2001; Trzesniewski, Donnellan & Robins, 2003). As stated previously, evidence has been found to suggest that exposure to violence can have a negative impact on one's self-esteem. DeLisi and associates (2014) found that African Americans who had been criminally victimized (with violence or otherwise), reported a decreased self-esteem. Moreover, Hurt and others (2001) found increased rates of exposure to violence to be linked to low self-esteem and low grade point averages among adolescents.

Davies and Brember (1999) also found self-esteem to be significantly associated to academic success, which was operationalized by reading and mathematics attainment scores on standardized tests. In the overall longitudinal sample, the authors found the students' self-esteem scores to increase in conjunction with test scores. …

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