Longitudinal Effects of Violent Victimization during Adolescence on Adverse Outcomes in Adulthood: A Focus on Prosocial Attachments

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Abstract

Objective

To assess how prosocial attachments to school and family may diminish the effects of violent victimization during adolescence on adverse outcomes in adulthood.

Study design

We analyzed secondary data on 13 555 participants from waves 1 (1994-1995) and 3 (2001-2002) of the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health, a nationally representative sample of US high school and middle school students. Adverse outcomes in adulthood included offending, alcohol problems, drug use, risky sexual behavior, violent victimization, depression, low self-esteem, suicidality, hospitalizations, sexually transmitted infections, extreme weight control, and obesity. Analyses were conducted separately for males and females.

Results

Our multivariate regression analyses demonstrated that adolescent victimization is a significant predictor of a host of problems in adulthood. Nevertheless, attachment to school and to family meaningfully reduced the effect of victimization on nearly every adult outcome we assessed.

Conclusions

Strong attachments to school and family in adolescence can reduce the long-term harms of violence on the lives of young persons. Incorporating this insight into regular clinical assessment could yield significant behavioral, health, and psychoemotional benefits for victims of violence.

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