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The Associations of Area-Level Violent Crime Rates and Self-Reported Violent Crime Exposure with Adolescent Behavioral Health

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The effects of witnessing and experiencing crime have seldom been disaggregated. Little research has assessed the effect of multiple exposures to crime. We assess independent contributions of self-reported crime and area-level crime to adolescent behavioral health outcomes. Cross sectional data on 5519 adolescents from the Comprehensive Community Mental Health Services for Children and their Families Program was linked to FBI crime rate data to assess associations of mutually exclusive categories of self-reported crime exposure and area-level crime rates with mental health and substance abuse. Self-reported crime exposure was significantly associated with poorer behavioral health. Violent victimization had the largest association with all outcomes except internalizing scores. All self-reported crime variables were significantly associated with three of the outcomes. Area-level crime rates were associated with one mental health outcome. Providers should assess direct and indirect crime exposure rather than only focusing on violent victimization.

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