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No Safe Haven II: The Effects of Violence Exposure on Urban Youth



To examine the moderating effects of gender, grade level, and ethnicity on the associations between violence exposure and adolescents' internalizing symptoms and externalizing behavior and to explore whether such relationships persist over time.


A survey of adolescents' exposure to violence, internalizing symptoms, and externalizing behavior was administered to 2 cross-sectional samples of 6th, 8th, and 10th graders (N = 2,748 in 1994 and 2,600 in 1996) in an urban school system. Approximately 1,100 adolescents participated in both surveys and served as the longitudinal sample.


Structural equation models indicated that violence exposure was closely associated with both externalizing behavior (r = 0.74-0.79) and internalizing symptoms (r = 0.36-0.38). The strength of association was similar across gender and ethnic groups. However, violence exposure was more closely related with internalizing symptoms for younger adolescents than their older counterparts. The longitudinal analysis suggested that exposure to violence reported at time 1 was related to adolescents' internalizing symptoms and externalizing behavior 2 years later.


These results document high levels of violence exposure for urban youths and indicate links to a range of psychiatric symptoms and indicators of poor adjustment. Such findings carry implications for direct clinical work with young people, as well as for program development and public policy.

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