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Urban Adolescents’ Exposure to Community Violence: The Role of Support, School Safety, and Social Constraints in a School-Based Sample of Boys and Girls

This study examined recent exposure to violence in the community and in other settings, protective factors, and current psychological functioning among 349 young adolescents from 9 urban middle schools. The majority (76%) of adolescents reported witnessing or being victimized by at least 1 violent event in the prior 6 months. Nearly half of adolescents who had talked about their experience of a violent event reported feeling constrained from sharing their thoughts or feelings because of others’ reactions. After controlling for daily hassles, more exposure to violence was associated with more self-reported posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and depressive symptoms. Exposure to violence was not a significant predictor of teachers’ ratings of adaptive functioning or internalizing symptoms. Support from specific individuals, perceived school safety, and lower constraints for discussing violence showed protective effects in the relation between exposure to violence and specific dimensions of psychological functioning. The implications of this research for school-based interventions are discussed.