Methods: To address the need for more integration about the lived realities and strategies of parents within community violence, authors completed a systematic literature review. The aim was to bring together empirical literature about how community violence influences parenting and how parents attempt, nonetheless, to care for and protect their young people. Using pre-determined inclusion criteria, authors conducted extensive searches within multiple databases. A test of reliability between reviewers resulted in a 90% agreement rate. With the 85 articles that met the inclusion criteria, authors organized and coded findings and together determined common themes. These themes were used to help build a model connecting traditional theories about parenting to the actual experiences and efforts of parents documented within the literature.
Results: Results of our analysis of this wide body of literature demonstrate how community violence creates substantial suffering for parents as it undermines parents’ mental health, child-rearing practices, sense of competence, and social connectedness. Parents must deal with the consequences of their own trauma exposure while also facing how the violence jeopardizes their parental role just when it is most essential. Our findings also point to the multiple ways that parents struggle to realize the complex, and often contradictory, tasks of parenting against a backdrop of considerable violence. We found evidence of significant coping strategies used by parents, including amplified parenting practices; gathering strength from culture, faith, and community; activism and community organizing; and nurturing communication and closeness with their children.
Conclusions and Implications: Our study points to the complex ways that parents plan for the physical and psychological safety of themselves, their children, and their communities. Findings point to the need for expanded theoretical frameworks and prevention practices that reflect both the suffering and the resilience of parents who grapple with community violence.