Coping with Exposure to Violence: Relations to Emotional Symptoms and Aggression in Three Urban Samples

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Abstract

Relations among exposure to violence, coping, and adjustment were examined in three urban samples. In study 1, which took place in a southeastern city, children ages 6–16 (N = 35; M age = 10.7 years) completed measures of adjustment, exposure to violence, and coping with violence. In study 2, which took place in one southern Midwestern city and one Northeastern city, children ages 8–15 (N = 70; M age = 11.3 years) completed similar measures with the addition of a measure assessing normative beliefs about aggression. Results are in line with the pathologic adaptation model and provide preliminary evidence for two hypothesized pathways explaining the effects of exposure to violence on adjustment: a normalization pathway in which exposure leads to more aggression-supporting beliefs and in turn to greater aggression, and a distress pathway in which exposure leads to avoidant coping and in turn to emotional symptoms.

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