Effects of chronic violence on inner-city junior high school-aged children

Harold A Coles, Pace University


Until recently, there has been very little research dealing with the effects of chronic exposure to violence on children. Many inner city children live in an environment, that is, by definition--stressful. When children experience trauma in their daily lives and it goes unrecognized, what are the possible ramifications? One of the goals of this study was to go beyond documenting frequency accounts of different types of chronic traumatic experience. This study investigated the relationship between chronic exposure to violence and stress reaction. The sample consisted of 4 classes totaling 100 sixth grade mainstream students (51 males and 49 females) attending a junior high school in Brooklyn, New York (80 African-American, 7 Latin-American, and 13 other). The junior high school was one of 5 in a very high crime area of the city. The questionnaire designed for this study consisted of Background information, a Violence Screening Form, the Child Post Traumatic Stress Reaction Index (CPTS), Checklist of Child Distress Symptoms (CCDS), Kazdin Hopelessness Scale (KHS), and a Life Events scale of the last six months (LSM). The students completed the questionnaire during the morning part of their school day in June 1993. Correlations were obtained between exposure to violence (type and target) and resulting stress reactions. The relationship between social support buffering the effects of exposure to violence and stress reactions were also investigated. According to the CPTS scoring, most of the children experienced some level of symptoms associated with PTSD. Males and females showed similar reactions to exposure to violence across four of the five categories. The first hypothesis was supported with a positive correlation found between the exposure to violence type and target on two measures of PTSD related symptoms. A positive relationship was found between exposure to violence and stress reaction. The second hypothesis of the greater the degree of social support, the lower the level of one's stress reaction was not confirmed. However, a positive correlation was found between levels of symptoms related to PTSD and number of friends. A significant relationship was also found between negative view of the future and having adult friends with whom to share problems. The results were analyzed to determine if a profile could be established to identify children that were experiencing and or at risk for developing PTSD related symptoms. Stress reactions resulting from exposure to violence were evaluated to determine their relationship. A high correlation was found among these instruments which provides a good measure of concurrent validity. A relationship was found between negative views of the future and increased measures of symptoms associated with PTSD. Males were found to have more of a negative view of the future, than females. Being threatened by someone and exposure to violence through hearing about an experience were both found to be predictors of symptoms associated with PTSD. The students were divided into two groups to investigate the relationship between resilience (students that had high exposure to violence and low stress reaction) and nonresilience (rest of the students). The resilient group was found to have a positive outlook on the future and the nonresilient group was found to have negative views of the future. The implications of the relationship between children's exposure to violence and the impact of stress reaction, as well as goals for interventions were also explored.

Subject Area

Behaviorial sciences|Welfare|Social psychology

Recommended Citation

Coles, Harold A, "Effects of chronic violence on inner-city junior high school-aged children" (1995). ETD Collection for Pace University. AAI9600573.



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