Direct and Indirect Violence Exposure: Relations to Depression for Economically Disadvantaged Ethnic Minority Mid-Adolescents

By Shukla, Kathan Dushyant; Wiesner, Margit | Violence and Victims, February 1, 2015 | Go to article overview

Direct and Indirect Violence Exposure: Relations to Depression for Economically Disadvantaged Ethnic Minority Mid-Adolescents


Shukla, Kathan Dushyant, Wiesner, Margit, Violence and Victims


Exposure to violence remains a considerable public health problem for adolescents in the United States. This cross-sectional study examined relative associations between exposure to violence in 3 different contexts (home, school, community) and depressive symptoms, using data from 233 11th-graders (predominantly economically disadvantaged Hispanic and African American students). Analyses examined the effects of victimization and witnessing violence in each context and those of cumulative violence exposure across contexts on depression, controlling for other risk factors. Both victimization and witnessing violence at home significantly predicted depression. Violence exposure in school and neighborhood was unrelated to the outcome. Witnessing violence was slightly more effective in predicting depression than victimization. Cumulative violence exposure was significantly related to depression in a linear fashion.

Keywords: victimization; witnessing violence; depressive symptoms; mid-adolescents

National survey data (Finkelhor, Turner, Ormrod, Flamby, & Kracke, 2009) show that more than 60% of the children and adolescents surveyed were exposed to violence within the past year, either directly (as a victim) or indirectly (as a witness). The 46.3% of the youths were assaulted at least once, about 1 in 4 of the youths witnessed a violent act, and nearly 1 in 10 saw one family member assault another (Finkelhor, Turner, Ormrod, Flamby, & Kracke, 2009). Youths from economically disadvantaged inner-city neighborhoods, many of whom are African American or Flispanic, tend to report particularly high levels of violence exposure (e.g., Crouch, Flanson, Saunders, Kilpatrick, & Resnick, 2000; Finkelhor, Ormrod, Turner, & Flamby, 2005). Empirical investigation of the effects of such experiences on various dimensions of adjustment and functioning is clearly wananted, especially for youths from economically disadvantaged urban areas (Gaylord-Harden, Cunningham, & Zelencik, 2011; McDonald & Richmond, 2008).

The effects of violence exposure may be especially detrimental during adolescence, a period of heightened susceptibility to risk as youths transition into adulthood (Reese, Vera, Thompson, & Reyes, 2001). Exposure to violence has been linked to a range of adjustment problems (e.g., Haynie, Petts, Maimon, & Piquero, 2009). For example, adolescents who are directly victimized and those who witness violence report higher levels of depressive symptoms, among other problems (e.g., Buka, Stichick, Birdthistle, & Earls, 2001; Kliewer, Lepore, Oskin, & Johnson, 1998; Manasse & Ganem, 2009). Investigation of negative emotions, such as depression, because of violence exposure is especially important because they may, in turn, promote offending (e.g., Manasse & Ganem, 2009). However, most studies on the effects of youth violence exposure have focused on a single social context of violence exposure (e.g., coimnunity). Few studies have examined the effects of cumulative violence exposure across multiple social contexts. Potential nonlinear effects of violence exposure are also understudied.

The purpose of this cross-sectional study was to extend existing research by examining the relative associations of violence exposure in three contexts (coimnunity, home, school) and of cumulative violence exposure across multiple contexts (focusing both on linear and nonlinear associations) to depressive symptoms for a sample of economically disadvantaged 11th-graders of African American and Hispanic ethnicity, controlling for other relevant risk factors.

EXPOSURE TO VIOLENCE IN SPECIFIC CONTEXTS AND DEPRESSION

A fairly large body of literature has examined the rates and outcomes of violence exposure in specific social settings, including the coimnunity, home, and school. Selected findings from this line of research are briefly summarized in this section.

Approximately 34% of youths are exposed to violence in the coimnunity (Mrug, Loosier, & Windle, 2008). …

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