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Too Sensitive or Not Sensitive Enough? Sensitivity to Context and Justice-involved Youths' Response to Violence Exposure

NCJ Number
Journal of Research on Adolescence Volume: Online Dated: March 2024
Date Published
March 2024

This article discusses sensory processing sensitivity in youth and its contribution to violence and aggressive behavior, laying out the authors’ research methodology, sample population, procedure and measures, missing data, and study results.


Building on research that explored the likelihood of youth development of mental health problems and externalizing behaviors after exposure to adverse contexts, the authors address the question of the role of sensitivity in the cycle of violence. This paper presents the authors’ research methodology and findings from a research study that explored how sensitivity to context moderated the association between exposure to violence and subsequent violence and aggressive behavior in a justice-involved sample of youth. The population sample included 1,216 male youth from the Crossroads Study, aged 13 to 17 years at their first arrest, from three sites: Orange County, California; Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; and Jefferson Parish, Louisiana. The paper provides details about the research methodology, including study procedures which were approved by the Institutional Review Board of all three sites, and measures which comprised of the following: participants’ recent exposure to violence; sensitivity to context, according to the 12-item Highly Sensitive Child (HSC) scale; violent/aggressive behavior, according to the Self-Report of Offending (SRO) scale; and covariates such as demographics, prior violent/aggressive behavior, lifetime exposure to violence, sensation seeking, and impulse control. The authors’ analytic plan included bivariate correlation calculation among all key study variables, among other actions. Study results indicate that exposure to violence (ETV) is a risk factor for future violent and aggressive behavior, and lower levels of sensitivity to context may further compound the risk. An extensive discussion of study outcomes is included as well as implications for practice.

Date Published: March 1, 2024