Methods: Using a sample of 320 African American youth recruited from public low-income housing in a large US city, data were collected, following consent, 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 Parental Attitude Measure, Exposure to Deviant Peers subscale from the National Youth Survey, and the Anxiety Sensitivity Index. In order to test the mediating roles of being a victim of or witnessing community violence between neighborhood risk, parenting behaviors, exposure to delinquent peers, and anxiety sensitivity, we used a two-step SEM procedure using the WLSMV estimator in Mplus. 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 determining the best fitting measurement models for being a victim of violence and witnessing violence, the final, trimmed structural models indicated good fit to the data, χ2(1470)=1870.257, RMSEA=0.035(0.030, 0.039), CFI=0.964, TLI=0.963, WRMR=1.16 for being a victim of community violence, and χ2(1817)=2322.104, RMSEA=0.035(0.031, 0.040), CFI=0.957, TLI=0.955, WRMR=1.20 for witnessing community violence. The final models for both witnessing and being a victim of community violence indicated that neighborhood risk and exposure to community violence have a direct effect on anxiety sensitivity. Being a victim of or witnessing community violence also positively mediated the effects of neighborhood risk and exposure to delinquent peers on anxiety sensitivity. Exposure to delinquent peers positively mediated the effects of neighborhood risk and parenting behaviors on being a victim of or witnessing community violence. And, parenting behaviors positively mediated the association between neighborhood risk and exposure to delinquent peers.
Conclusions and Implications: The findings indicate that community violence is a common mediator of neighborhood risk, parenting behaviors, and exposure to delinquent peers on anxiety sensitivity. Additionally, a child's perception of his or her neighborhood has a direct impact on anxiety sensitivity. These findings provide both a comprehensive model of co-occurring environmental factors, their relationships, and their effects on anxiety sensitivity as well as viable points of entry for mental health intervention for African American youth living in public housing in urban settings.