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Ecological Framework for Understanding Risk for Exposure to Community Violence and the Effects of Exposure on Children and Adolescents

NCJ Number
Aggression and Violent Behavior Volume: 7 Issue: 5 Dated: September-October 2002 Pages: 423-451
Suzanne Salzinger; Richard S. Feldman; Tanya Stockhammer; Julie Hood
Date Published
September 2002
29 pages
This literature review encompasses the past decade's research on the risk for exposure to community violence and the effects of exposure on children's and adolescents' functioning.
The studies have been incorporated into a developmental-ecological framework that takes into account five domains of context: community and neighborhood, family and household, relationships with parents and caregivers, relationships with peers, and personal characteristics. This was done for the purpose of identifying the risks for exposure and its effects on outcome, as well as for suggesting the processes involved. The studies reviewed have shown that each of the aforementioned domains of risk have influenced children's and youths' exposure to community violence. The studies reviewed to this point all indicate a direct association between each risk factor and exposure to community violence in terms of both witnessing violence and being victimized by it. For the most part, the studies have left unanswered the more important questions regarding the mechanisms that operate either to increase or decrease risk between each domain of risk and exposure. This article proposes an ecological model that sets out hypothesized indirect paths between each domain and exposure to violence that represent plausible mediating and moderating processes. In tracing probable paths of influence between community and neighborhood variables and individual children's risk for exposure to violence, the authors have assumed that children's behavior, the most proximal domain of risk, is most likely embedded within the domains of family and peer contextual influences. Consistent with this assumption, the authors did not include a direct path between community context and children's personal characteristics, because the effects of community are most likely mediated through family and peer systems. The article concludes that because the effects of children's and youths' exposure to violence cover a wide range of adverse outcomes, interventions are needed to address the entire range, from traumatic responses to internalizing and externalizing problems. Given that aggressive or violent behavior is a frequent consequence of exposure to violence, it is not surprising that many interventions are designed to prevent or mitigate such behavior. 1 figure and 124 references