According to a recent research, increased exposure to community violence in minority teen boys leads to symptoms of violent behaviour while abating the signs of depression.
The results add evidence to a model demonstrating the desensitization to violence that can occur with greater exposure.
Lead author of the study Noni Gaylord Harden said, “Community violence disproportionately impacts minority teen boys; but until now, we weren’t sure of the long term effects of repeated exposure to violence on the mental health of these children,”
“This study is unique because it is the first to test this theory of desensitization in a sample consisting entirely of males of color over a long period of time,” he said.
Adding, “as a result, we have gained valuable insight into the mental health implications of repeated exposure to violence for this vulnerable population, as well as the critical time points and factors for detection and prevention.”
The study examined the associations between exposure to community violence, depressive symptoms and violent behavior among 285 African American and Latino male youths in Chicago for five consecutive years starting at fifth or seventh grade.
All participants were from urban neighborhoods characterized by high violence and high poverty.
The researchers used the Pathologic Adaptation Model (PAM) to examine the emotional desensitization process that occurs in youth who are repeatedly exposed to community violence.
PAM demonstrates that youth may initially express affective depressive symptoms, such as sadness, crying or feelings of worthlessness and guilt, but become emotionally numb to community violence as they witness more incidents.
The findings also suggest that there is a positive association between violence exposure and subsequent violent behaviour.
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“These findings point to the importance of early identification of youth exposed to community violence in the formative early and middle adolescent years,” said Harden.
Adding, “Selective prevention programs are needed to address depressive symptoms and reduce potential violent or aggressive behaviors. Efforts to reduce the likelihood of these behaviors may, in turn, reduce rates of school suspension, expulsion, and incarceration in males of color.”
The research was published in the Journal of Clinical Child & Adolescent Psychology.