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Quality of the Parent–Child Relationship as a Moderator of Witnessing Violence and Youth Trauma Symptoms

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Traumatic event exposure affects two in every three adolescents in the United States and there is the potential for numerous deleterious effects including higher levels of youth depression, anxiety, posttraumatic stress symptoms, and emotional and behavioral problems. Witnessing violence is one of the more common experiences associated with trauma exposure. Despite the ample research on mental health outcomes associated with witnessing violence, less is known about the extent to which parent–child relationships play a role in youth mental health outcomes when youth are exposed to violence. With a clinically relevant, diverse sample of 806 youth ages 12 years old who experienced maltreatment or were at risk of being maltreated, we tested hypotheses that the parent–child relationship quality would moderate the associations between witnessing violence and youth mental health outcomes. Results supported hypotheses for youths’ symptoms of anxiety, depression, dissociation, and posttraumatic stress. The study contributes to the trauma literature by determining that the quality of the parent–child relationship moderated the effects of witnessing violence on trauma outcomes.

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The dataset used for the current study is publicly available but requires a licensing agreement for each user. We are not authorized to share the dataset. The Longitudinal Studies on Child Abuse and Neglect (LONGSCAN) dataset is managed by a third party. The LONGSCAN dataset can be requested from the National Data Archive on Child Abuse and Neglect. Researchers will be able to access these data in the same manner as the authors. The authors did not have any special access privileges.


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Correspondence to Lexie Unhjem.

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This document includes data from the Longitudinal Studies of Child Abuse and Neglect (LONGSCAN), a project funded by the Administration on Children, Youth, and Families, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (ACYF/DHHS). The data were collected by the LONGSCAN Consortium and have been provided by the National Data Archive on Child Abuse and Neglect. The information and opinions expressed herein reflect solely the position of the author(s). Nothing herein should be construed to indicate the support or endorsement of its content by ACYF/DHHS.

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Unhjem, L., McWey, L.M., Ledermann, T. et al. Quality of the Parent–Child Relationship as a Moderator of Witnessing Violence and Youth Trauma Symptoms. Journ Child Adol Trauma 16, 869–879 (2023).

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