Growing Up in Violent Communities: Do Family Conflict and Gender Moderate Impacts on Adolescents’ Psychosocial Development?
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- McKelvey, L.M., Whiteside-Mansell, L., Bradley, R.H. et al. J Abnorm Child Psychol (2011) 39: 95. doi:10.1007/s10802-010-9448-4
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This study examined the moderating effects of family conflict and gender on the relationship between community violence and psychosocial development at age 18. The study sample consisted of 728 children and families who were part of the Infant Health and Development Program study of low-birth-weight, pre-term infants. In this sample, adolescent psychosocial outcomes were predicted by community violence differently for male and female children and based on their experiences of conflict at home. For male children, being in a high conflict family as a child exacerbated the negative effects of community violence such that internalizing problems (depression and anxiety) and risk-taking behaviors increased as community violence increased, while being in a low conflict family protected the child against the negative impacts of the community. For female adolescents, there were no moderating effects of family conflict on the relationship between community violence and externalizing problems. Moderating effects for internalizing problems demonstrated that being in low conflict families did not serve as protection against community violence for girls as was demonstrated for boys. These findings demonstrate the long-term effects of community violence on child development, highlighting the importance of gender and family context in the development of internalizing and externalizing problems.