The Context of Violence for Children of Color: Violence in the Community and in the Media

By Jipguep, Marie-Claude; Sanders-Phillips, Kathy | The Journal of Negro Education, Fall 2003 | Go to article overview

The Context of Violence for Children of Color: Violence in the Community and in the Media


Jipguep, Marie-Claude, Sanders-Phillips, Kathy, The Journal of Negro Education


Exposure to community violence may be associated with psychological distress, greater risk taking and aggression, and learning problems in children of color, while exposure to media violence may be related to increased aggression, psychological trauma, and other psychological and behavioral sequelae. Unfortunately, relationships between children's exposure to community and media violence have not been fully examined. Based on existing findings, this article presents a conceptual model of the potential effects of exposure to community and media violence on child functioning which suggests that the impact may be cumulative and should be examined in future studies of development in children of color.

Low-income children of color in America are exposed to many types of violence. They may experience violence in the home and they experience or observe violence in schools, playgrounds, parks, and the communities in which they play and grow (Veenema, 2001). In addition, children are growing up in a media-saturated environment. Portrayals of violence in the media-through television, video games, and the Internet-touch virtually every child (Gentile & Walsh, 2002; Osofsky, 1999; Singer et al., 1999). While community and media violence affect all racial and ethnic groups, ethnic minority youth, particularly African Americans and Hispanic Americans, may be disproportionately affected by exposure to both community violence and exposure to media violence (Attar, Guerra, & Tolan, 1994; Bureau of Justice Statistics, 1991; Cooley-Quille, Boyd, Frantz, & Walsh, 2001).

Violence refers to immediate or chronic situations that result in injury to the psychological, social, or physical well-being of individuals or groups (American Psychological Association, 1993). Violence, however, is not evenly distributed across all neighborhoods and demographic groups. Evidence suggests that it occurs at a higher rate in low-income/no income neighborhoods, especially among the young, and in public places (Bell & Jenkins, 1993). Research shows that children's exposure to community violence is related to a wide array of behavioral and psychological difficulties (Ceballo, Dahl, Aretakis, & Ramirez, 2001). Similarly, children's exposure to media violence is related to increased aggression, the prevalence of symptoms of psychological trauma, and other psychological and behavioral sequelae (American Academy of Pediatrics, 1995; Gentile & Walsh, 2002; McCann, Sakheim, & Abrahamson, 1988; Rosenthal, 2000; Sanders-Phillips, 1997; Strasburger & Donnerstein, 1999). As this selective review of the literature suggests, the level of children's exposure to community violence or media violence may vary; however, the psychological and behavioral risks that are associated with children's exposure to these types of violence are remarkably similar.

This article reviews existing findings on exposure to community violence and exposure to media violence and on the associated adverse psychosocial and behavioral outcomes in children and adolescents. The lack of scientific inquiry linking the potential cumulative effects of the co-occurrence of exposure to community and exposure to media violence to adverse psychosocial and behavioral outcomes in children, particularly children of color, is noted. Based on the literature review, a conceptual model of the relationship between exposure to community violence and psychosocial adjustment and risk behaviors in children of color, moderated by exposure to media violence, is presented.

LOW-INCOME CHILDREN'S EXPOSURE TO COMMUNITY & MEDIA VIOLENCE: EFFECTS AND RESPONSES

Exposure to Community Violence

While the nation publicly mourns shootings at schools such as Columbine High School in Littleton, Colorado, life-threatening community violence is a daily obstacle for many low-income, inner-city children (Ceballo et al., 2001). Groves (1997) defines community violence as the chronic and pervasive presence of violence and violence-related events within an individual's proximal environment. …

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