Childhood Maltreatment, Internalizing Behavior, and Delinquency Among Korean Youth: The Buffering Effect of Perceived Neighborhood Collective Efficacy
Current Study: Given previous research suggesting a buffering effect of neighborhood cohesion on the relationship between childhood maltreatment and behavioral issues in Western cultures, the current study investigated the generalizability of neighborhood collective efficacy as a developmental protective factor among Korean youth with histories of abuse. Specifically, the main and moderating effects of maltreatment experiences (i.e., physical and sexual abuse) and neighborhood collective efficacy on youths’ internalizing and delinquent behavior problems were assessed.
Methods: Data were obtained as part of a larger study investigating risk and promotive factors among Korean youth. Participants included 448 students (48% female, 52% male) attending post-secondary schools in the Seoul area of Korea. Self-reported internalizing behavior symptoms, delinquent behavior (DB), and childhood physical (CPA) and sexual abuse (CSA) experiences were derived from the Life Events Survey for Youth (Laser, 2003). A measure of neighborhood collective efficacy (NCE) was computed from items on the Laser Ecological Protective Factors for Youth Scale (Laser, 2003). Descriptive and hierarchical linear regression (HLR) analyses were conducted.
Results: Among male participants, HLR indicated significant main effects of CSA (β= .16, p< .001) and NCE (β= -.26, p< .001) on internalizing behavior. When the interaction term for NCE and CSA was added to the model, significant R2 change was evident and indicated a buffering effect of NCE on the relationship between CSA and internalizing behavior (R2= .12, F(3, 271)=12.95, p<.001). This model was not significant for predicting delinquent behavior. HLR analyses also indicated a significant main effect of CPA (β= .11, p< .01), but not NCE, on delinquent behavior. When the interaction term between NCE and CPA was added, the final model resulted in a statistically significant change in R2 (R2= .05, F(3, 274)=5.40, p=.001), demonstrating a buffering effect of NCE on the relationship between CPA and delinquent behavior. This model was not significant when predicting internalizing behavior. Among females, the buffering effect of NCE on the relationship between childhood abuse variables and internalizing and delinquent behavior was not evident.
Discussion: Study findings support previous literature linking childhood physical and sexual abuse to delinquency and internalizing behavior problems among Korean youth. In addition, our findings lend support to the moderating effect of neighborhood collective efficacy in reducing the deleterious impact of childhood maltreatment on behavioral outcomes among male Korean youth. Results are discussed in terms of implications for international social work and community-focused prevention and intervention programs in Korea.