This study examines the psychological impact of children's exposure to violence and the influence of mothers' knowledge about their children's encounters with violence. Our sample consists of a poor, multiethnic sample of 104 fourth- or fifth-- grade children and their mothers. Children in this sample were exposed to rather high levels of community violence, and on the whole, mothers greatly underestimated their children's exposure to violence and feelings of psychological distress. Hierarchical regression analyses indicated that children's exposure to violence was associated with greater psychological distress. Our findings suggest that the detrimental effects of community violence are present for all children, irrespective of their racial background. Further, greater mother-child agreement about children's exposure to violence was related to better psychological functioning. The implications of these results for effective parenting strategies and community-based interventions are discussed.
Key Words: community violence, parenting, psychological well-being, vicarious victimization.
This research was supported by funds provided by the Department of Psychology and the Center for Human Growth and Development at the University of Michigan. We are most grateful for the openness and generosity of the mothers and children who shared their experiences with us. In addition, we would like to thank members of the Study Group on Culture and Ethnicity, a subgroup of the Family Research Consortium, for constructive and insightful comments on earlier drafts of this paper. We are also appreciative of the responsive and sound statistical advice provided by Richard Gonzalez and David Winter. Finally, we would like to acknowledge a large group of talented and dedicated undergraduate students who assisted with data collection and data entry.
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