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Adolescent exposure to violence: Antecedents and consequences

Deborah Susan Morsi, University of Massachusetts Amherst


The purpose of this study was to examine the relationship between adolescents' exposure to violent and non-violent traumatic life events and psychological factors and the effects of demographic and prosocial resiliency factors on this relationship. A secondary analysis of data from a study with a large sample of white and black adolescents (grades 9th and 10th) from three high schools was performed. Of the total eligible population, 89% participated in the survey (N = 1684). The adolescents' ages ranged from 13 to 18 years; 54% were black and 46% white; and 50% of the adolescents were female. One out of five adolescents was exposed to violence as a victim of a violent traumatic life event and there was greater exposure in black and male adolescents. The overall mean exposure to non-violent traumatic life events was 4.95. These data suggested that there is a relationship between traumatic life event exposure and anger total, depression, and mental distress in a large diverse sample of adolescents. Victimized female and white adolescents reported more depressive and mental distress than male and black adolescents. Exposure to violent traumatic life events in adolescents was a significant predictor of anger total $(p<.01),$ depression $(p<.01),$ and mental distress $(p<.01).$ Prosocial resiliency factors (self-efficacy, social support, and hope) moderated the exposure to violent traumatic life event exposure. Higher self-efficacy and social support and more hopeful about the future were protective and ameliorated the detrimental effects of exposure to violent traumatic life events in adolescents. These findings support the importance of identifying adolescents exposed to violence and intervening to address the associated psychological symptoms. Further, prosocial resiliency can be used to decrease the deleterious effects and are potential avenues for prevention strategies.

Subject Area

Nursing|Public health|Psychotherapy|Developmental psychology

Recommended Citation

Morsi, Deborah Susan, "Adolescent exposure to violence: Antecedents and consequences" (1998). Doctoral Dissertations Available from Proquest. AAI9909194.