Socioemotional Adjustment as a Mediator of the Association Between Exposure to Community Violence and Academic Performance in Low-Income Adolescents

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Abstract

Objective:

This study examines whether exposure to community violence is indirectly related to academic performance through anxious/depressed symptoms and delinquent behaviors.

Method:

Three hundred eighteen mothers and adolescents who participated in a longitudinal investigation were interviewed when adolescents were age 10, 14, and 16.

Results:

Community violence exposure at age 14 was significantly related to anxious/depressed symptoms and delinquent behaviors. Delinquent behaviors (but not anxious/depressed symptoms) were significantly associated with academic performance at age 16. Exposure to community violence was indirectly related to academic performance through delinquent behaviors. There was no significant indirect effect of exposure to community violence on academic performance through anxious/depressed symptoms. Covariates included sociodemographics and exposure to child abuse. Age 10 anxious/depressed symptoms, age 10 delinquent behaviors, and age 14 academic performance were also included in the model to control for preexisting differences in socioemotional adjustment and academic performance.

Conclusions:

Results suggest that exposure to community violence may initiate a cascade of problems that spread from behavior problems to declines in academic performance. Our results highlight the need for schools to consider exposure to community violence as 1 form of trauma and to transform in ways that make them more trauma sensitive. The use of trauma-sensitive practices that address the effects of violence exposure on youth may help limit the progression of adverse effects from delinquent behavior to other domains of functioning.

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