Empirical Research

Journal of Youth and Adolescence

, Volume 42, Issue 10, pp 1512-1527

First online:

Gender Differences in the Effects of Parental Underestimation of Youths’ Secondary Exposure to Community Violence

  • Gregory M. ZimmermanAffiliated withSchool of Criminology and Criminal Justice, Northeastern University Email author 
  • , Amy S. FarrellAffiliated withSchool of Criminology and Criminal Justice, Northeastern University

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Secondary exposure to community violence is particularly detrimental for male youths, who disproportionately report witnessing community violence and suffering associated trauma-related symptoms. Yet, few studies have investigated whether parents perceive and report similar gender disparities among youths. In addition, few studies have examined the potentially negative effects of parent–child discord as to the youth’s level of exposure to violence, or whether these effects vary across gender. Therefore, this study investigated whether differences between parents’ and youths’ reports of youths’ exposure to violence, and the consequences of such reporting discord, varied across the gender of the youth informant. Participants were adolescents aged approximately 12 and 15 years at baseline (N = 1,517; 51 % female). Descriptive analyses indicated that male youths reported significantly higher levels of exposure to violence than female youths, but parents similarly under-reported their male and female children’s experiences with violence. Hierarchical analyses indicated that parental underestimation of youths’ exposure to violence had negative consequences. Moreover, significant interaction effects demonstrated that only females responded to reporting discord with internalizing problems. Conversely, both male and female youths responded to reporting discord with externalizing problems and offending. The results suggest that while parent–child discord is associated with negative outcomes for both male and female youths, discord may be disproportionately associated with negative outcomes among young females. The findings speak to the utility of examining the correlates and consequences of exposure to violence from a “gendered” perspective.


Coping Crime and delinquency Gender Parent–child relations Resiliency Stress