Protective Factors for Youth Exposed to Violence in Their Communities: A Review of Family, School, and Community Moderators

Emily J. Ozer, Iris Lavi, Laura Douglas, Jennifer Price Wolf

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

64 Citations (SciVal)

Abstract

This review provides a comprehensive investigation of the pattern and strength of findings in the literature regarding the environmental moderators of the relationship between exposure to community violence and mental health among children and adolescents. Twenty-nine studies met criteria for inclusion in our analysis of family, school, and community variables as moderators. Dependent variables included internalizing (e.g., anxiety, depression, posttraumatic stress disorder) and externalizing symptoms (e.g., aggression, substance use). Effect sizes for the interactions of exposure to violence and potential moderators were summarized by their patterns of protective processes. The majority of studies in the literature examined family characteristics as moderators of the exposure to violence–symptom relationship, rather than school- or community level factors. Our results indicated more consistent patterns for (a) close family relationships and social support for internalizing symptoms and (b) close family relationships for externalizing symptoms. Overall, the most common type of protective pattern was protective-stabilizing, in which youth with higher levels of the environmental attribute demonstrate relative stability in mental health despite exposure to violence. We found no consistent evidence that parental monitoring—a dimension inversely associated with exposure to violence in prior studies—moderated the relationship between exposure to violence and symptoms. The study emphasizes the importance of strengthening family support for young people’s exposure to community violence; more research is needed to provide a solid evidence base for the role of school and community-level protective factors for youth exposed to violence.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)353-378
Number of pages26
JournalJournal of Clinical Child & Adolescent Psychology
Volume46
Issue number3
Early online date26 May 2015
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 31 Dec 2017

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