Resilience and Vulnerability: Adaptation in the Context of Childhood Adversities

By Suniya S. Luthar | Go to book overview

16
Positive Adaptation among Youth Exposed to Community Violence

Deborah Gorman-Smith and Patrick H. Tolan

Exposure to community violence threatens the well-being of children in several ways. Living in communities plagued by violence threatens the very core of what is needed for healthy development and is related to a host of short- and long-term developmental problems (Bell & Jenkins, 1993; Cooley-Quill, Boyd, Frantz, & Walsh, 2001; Gorman-Smith & Tolan, 1998; Richters & Martinez, 1993; Schwab-Stone et al., 1995). Unfortunately, although it is possible to list many problems and disorders associated with exposure to community violence, we can say very little based on scientific study about variations in outcome, relations between specific types of exposure and outcome, and mechanisms through which children who are exposed do better or worse. We know that some children appear to suffer symptoms of posttraumatic stress disorder or other types of internalizing disorders, and others seem to react by becoming more aggressive or showing greater behavioral problems. However, we know little about how and why these different reactions occur. We also have few empirically based treatments for children exposed to chronic community violence, and even less work has been conducted on how to protect children from exposure in the first place. So, although it is clear that exposure to community violence can harm children, the scientific knowledge base on promoting positive adaptation among youth exposed to community violence is very sketchy.

This work was supported by funding from the National Institute of Mental Health (R01 MH48248), the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (R01 HD35415), CDC-P (R49 CCR512739), and a Faculty Scholar Award from the William T. Grant Foundation to the first author.

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