Original Article

Child Psychiatry & Human Development

, Volume 43, Issue 2, pp 306-321

First online:

Reinforcement Sensitivity and Risk for Psychopathology Following Exposure to Violence: A Vulnerability-Specificity Model in Latino Youth

  • Omar G. GudiñoAffiliated withDepartment of Psychology, University of CaliforniaNew York University Child Study Center Email author 
  • , Erum NadeemAffiliated withDivision of Mental Health Services and Policy Research, New York State Psychiatric Institute, Columbia University
  • , Sheryl H. KataokaAffiliated withDepartment of Psychiatry and Biobehavioral Sciences, University of California
  • , Anna S. LauAffiliated withDepartment of Psychology, University of California

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Urban Latino youth are exposed to high rates of violence, which increases risk for diverse forms of psychopathology. The current study aims to increase specificity in predicting responses by testing the hypothesis that youths’ reinforcement sensitivity—behavioral inhibition (BIS) and behavioral approach (BAS)—is associated with specific clinical outcomes and increases risk for the development of such problems following exposure to violence. Utilizing a short-term longitudinal design, Latino youth (N = 168) provided reports of BIS/BAS and emotional/behavioral problems at Time 1, exposure to violence between Time 1 and Time 2, and clinical symptoms at Time 2. Results suggested that reinforcement sensitivity moderated the relation between violence exposure and psychopathology, such that increasing levels of BIS were associated with elevated risk for internalizing and posttraumatic stress symptoms following exposure to violence whereas BAS increased risk for externalizing problems. The importance of building on existing knowledge to understand minority youth psychopathology is discussed.


Behavioral inhibition Behavioral approach Violence exposure Latino Internalizing Externalizing Posttraumatic stress