Bridging Disciplinary Boundaries (January 11 - 14, 2007)
Methods: This sample (n=851) of high-risk adolescents was surveyed in high school (15 sites, multi-state) and again four years later. Approximately 45% are female, minority representation is roughly 60%, ages ranged from 15-18 at initial assessment; SES levels were generally low to moderate. Several well-established measures2 captured factors theorized to hold risk (emotional distress, level of stress, suicide risk, substance abuse) or protective (personal resources and social support resources) functions relative to healthy development.
Results: Approximately 78% reported having been exposed to one or more of 5 forms of violence. More than 50% each had seen family members: a) destroy others' things, b) hit someone in anger; 46.7% had been physically hurt by someone else; 19% had been physically abused; 9.2% had been sexually abused; and 54.4% had been exposed to more than one form of violence. MANOVA tests were used to assess differences for those with histories of no, one, or multiple forms of violence exposure for each set of risk and protective factors at both time points. All tests achieved significance at the .01 level, as did subsequent ANOVA for each of the risk and protective variables. Means were in the expected directions, with the exception of personal resource variables (self-esteem, personal control, coping style), which were equivalent across groups.
Implications: Confirmed hypotheses regarding high rates of exposure and multiple exposure outcomes highlight concerns related to shared etiological pathways and potentiating effects between violence exposure and the studied risk factors. These findings hold important implications for intervention programs--preventive or remedial—targeting mental health and problem functioning for youth. The paper will discuss ways that violence effects, unattended, are likely to dilute effectiveness of current interventions with high-risk adolescence, particularly for those with multiple or poly-victimization backgrounds.
1Clark, D. B. et al. (2003) Physical and sexual abuse, depression and alcohol use disorders in adolescents. Drug and Alcohol Dependence, 69, 51-60.
2Thompson, E. et al. (2001) Evaluation of indicated suicide risk prevention for potential high school drop-outs. American Journal of Public Health, 91, 742-752.