Journal of Community Health

, Volume 42, Issue 5, pp 1069–1078 | Cite as

Community Violence Exposure and Risk Taking Behaviors Among Black Emerging Adults: A Systematic Review

  • Robert Motley
  • Whitney Sewell
  • Yu-Chih Chen


Black emerging adults ages 18–29, particularly those residing in predominantly black urban communities, are at risk for community violence exposure (CVE). This potentially traumatic event may induce traumatic stress reactions for black emerging adults that contribute to their engagement in violence perpetration, substance use and/or sexual risk-taking behaviors as a way to cope with their experiences. To address these identified concerns and make recommendations for future research, this article identifies and synthesizes results from studies that have examined CVE and its association with violence perpetration, substance use, and sexual risk-taking behaviors among black emerging adults. We use the term “black” throughout the article to refer to a socially constructed racial group or identity and recognize that this group, like all other racial groups in the United States, are ethnically heterogeneous. A systematic review of the literature was conducted to identify studies that (1) included a measure of CVE (2) included a measure of violence perpetration, substance use, or sexual risk-taking behaviors, and (3) included primarily black emerging adults. Results showed CVE rates as high as 83% for black emerging adults. CVE was significantly associated with substance use, but findings on the association of CVE with violence perpetration and sexual risk-taking behaviors were mixed. Also, there was a lack of consistency in measures used to assess CVE, suggesting that future research should seek to identify “gold standard” measures and consider whether they have been examined with black emerging adults or similar populations and whether they capture the experiences of this unique population. Furthermore, studies investigating factors that might moderate and/or mediate the relationship between CVE, violence perpetration, substance use, and sexual risk-taking behaviors among black emerging adults are warranted.


Community violence exposure Violence perpetration Substance use Sexual risk taking behaviors 



This study was funded by the National Institute of Mental Health (T32MH019960).

Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of interest

Robert Motley, MSW receives pre-doctoral fellowship funding from the National Institute of Mental Health. The content is solely the responsibility of the author and does not necessarily represent the official views of the National Institute of Mental Health or the National Institutes of Health. Whitney Sewell declares that she has no conflict of interest. Yu-Chih Chen declares that he has no conflict of interest.


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© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.George Warren Brown School of Social WorkWashington University in Saint LouisSt. LouisUSA

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