Development and Psychopathology

The role of exposure to community violence and developmental problems among inner-city youth

a1 University of Illinois at Chicago


While research has well documented that urban youth are exposed to increasing rates of community violence, little is known about what increases risk for violence exposure, what protects children from exposure to violence, and what factors reduce the most negative outcomes associated with witnessing violence. This study expands on current research by evaluating the relations between exposure to violence, family relationship characteristics and parenting practices, and aggression and depression symptoms. Data were drawn from a sample of 245 African-American and Latino boys and their caregivers from economically disadvantaged inner-city neighborhoods in Chicago. Rates of exposure could not be predicted from family relationship and parenting characteristics, although there was a trend for discipline to be related. Exposure to community violence was related to increases in aggressive behavior and depression over a 1-year period even after controlling for previous status. Future studies should continue to evaluate the role of exposure to violence on the development of youth among different neighborhoods and communities. Implications for intervention and policy are discussed.

c1 Address correspondence and reprint requests to: Deborah Gorman–Smith, Institute for Juvenile Research, Department of Psychiatry, 907 S. Wolcott Ave. (M/C 747), Chicago, IL 60612.