Methods: A sample of 320 African American Youth were recruited to participate in this study. Data collection occurred within community centers and community rooms within each research setting. Survey measures included the Survey of Exposure to Community Violence – Self Report, the Ambient Hazards Subscale of the Subjective Neighborhood Scale, the Exposure to Deviant Peers subscale from the National Youth Survey, and the Parental Attitude Measure. Depressive symptoms were measured using the Center for Epidemiologic Studies Depression Scale (CES-D). We use a two-step SEM procedure and the WLSMV estimator in Mplus to examine relationships between neighborhood risk, parenting behaviors, exposure to delinquent peers, and being a victim of or witnessing community violence and depressive symptoms. Chi-square values that are not statistically significant, RMSEA <0.05, CFI and TLI >0.95, and WRMR <0.90 were examined to determine goodness of fit. Indirect effects and significance were calculated for each mediating relationship of interest.
Results: After estimating and selecting the measurement models with best fit for being a victim of violence and witnessing violence, the final, trimmed structural models indicated good fit to the data, χ2(1581)=1894.566, RMSEA=0.030(0.025, 0.035), CFI=0.977, TLI=0.976, WRMR=1.07 for being a victim of community violence, and χ2(1938)=2387.206, RMSEA=0.033(0.028, 0.037), CFI=0.966, TLI=0.965, WRMR=1.15 for witnessing community violence. The final models indicated that both exposure to delinquent peers and witnessing or being a victim of community violence had a direct effect on depressive symptoms. Witnessing or being a victim of community violence also positively mediated the effects of neighborhood risk, parenting behaviors, and exposure to delinquent peers on depressive symptoms. Finally, exposure to delinquent peers positively mediated the effects of neighborhood risk and parenting behaviors on depressive symptoms.
Conclusions and Implications: The results show that community violence exposure and exposure to delinquent peers mediates the effects of co-occurring environmental factors such as neighborhood risk and parenting behaviors on depressive symptoms. These findings suggest that while limiting exposure to community violence through intervention could reduce depressive symptoms, another promising pathway is providing productive environments for youth to engage in so as to reduce participation in delinquent activities and the related peer effects.