, Volume 40, Issue 12, pp 1674-1690

Gender Differences in the Longitudinal Impact of Exposure to Violence on Mental Health in Urban Youth

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Abstract

There is evidence of gender differences in psychopathology during adolescence, but little research has investigated gender differences in trauma-related symptoms. Exposure to violence is a commonly experienced potentially traumatic event among urban adolescents, and the few studies examining gender differences in its mental health impact have produced inconsistent findings. The present study examines the moderating effects of gender on the longitudinal association between exposure to violence and a variety of mental health symptoms (externalizing, internalizing, PTSD, dissociation) in a racially diverse urban adolescent sample (N = 615; 50.6% female; Time 1 mean age = 14.15; Time 2 mean age = 16.70). For both genders, exposure to violence prospectively predicted increases in all types of symptoms. Although boys reported more exposure to violence on average, girls experiencing violence were more likely to experience dissociative (but not PTSD, internalizing, or externalizing) symptoms. The results suggest that adolescent girls exposed to potentially traumatic events may be especially vulnerable to experiencing certain trauma-related symptoms and imply gender-specific pathways to trauma-related psychopathology.