Prevention Science

, Volume 14, Issue 6, pp 606–617 | Cite as

Behavioral Adaptation Among Youth Exposed to Community Violence: a Longitudinal Multidisciplinary Study of Family, Peer and Neighborhood-Level Protective Factors

  • Sonia Jain
  • Alison Klebanoff Cohen


Several studies across fields have documented the detrimental effects of exposure to violence and, separately, the power of developmental assets to promote positive youth development. However, few have examined the lives of youth exposed to violence who demonstrate resilience (that is, positive adjustment despite risk), and hardly any have examined how developmental assets may shape resilient trajectories into adulthood for youth exposed to violence. What are these resources and relationships that high-risk youth can leverage to tip the balance from vulnerability in favor of resilience? We used generalized estimating equations to examine multilevel longitudinal data from 1,114 youth of ages 11–16 from the Project on Human Development in Chicago Neighborhoods. Behavioral adaptation was a dynamic process that varied over time and by level of violence exposure. In the short term, being a victim was associated with increased aggression and delinquency. In the long term though, both victims and witnesses to violence had higher odds of behavioral adaptation. Baseline family support and family boundaries, friend support, neighborhood support, and collective efficacy had positive main effects for all youth. Additionally, having family support, positive peers, and meaningful opportunities for participation modified the effect of exposure to violence and increased odds of behavioral adaptation over time. Policies, systems, and programs across sectors should focus on building caring relationships/supports with family members and friends, positive peers, and meaningful opportunities especially for witnesses and victims of violence, to promote behavioral resilience and related outcomes into adulthood for high-risk youth.


Adolescents Multilevel analysis Resilience Urban health Violence 


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© Society for Prevention Research 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Health and Human Development ProgramWestEdOaklandUSA

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