The Covariates of Parent and Youth Reporting Differences on Youth Secondary Exposure to Community Violence

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Abstract

Survey data for studying youth’s secondary exposure to community violence (i.e., witnessing or hearing violence in the community) come from both parents and their children. There are benefits of considering multiple informants in psychosocial assessments, but parents and youths often disagree about comparable information. These reporting differences present challenges for both researchers and clinicians. To shed new light on the individual, family, and neighborhood factors that contribute to parent and youth reporting differences regarding youth’s secondary exposure to community violence, this study analyzed hierarchical item response models on a sample of youth respondents from the Project on Human Development in Chicago Neighborhoods. Participants were aged approximately 9, 12, and 15 years (trimodal distribution; mean age = 12.0 years) at baseline (N = 2,344; 49.6 % female). Descriptive analyses indicated that parents significantly underestimated their children’s exposure to community violence. Logistic hierarchical item response models indicated that absolute discrepancies between parent and youth reports were a function of youth demographic characteristics (male, Hispanic or African American as compared to white, age, 3rd as compared to 1st generation immigrant), individual difference factors (lower levels of self-control, higher levels of violent peer exposure), and family factors (lower household socioeconomic status). Parental under-reporting of youth’s exposure to violence was associated with youth demographic characteristics (male, age, 2nd as compared to 3rd generation immigrant), family factors (lower levels of parental supervision), and neighborhood characteristics (higher levels of violence, less access to youth services). The results suggest that a constellation of individual and contextual factors may contribute to the understanding of parent and youth reporting differences. The findings speak to the utility of examining parent and youth reporting differences from a hierarchical lens.