Abstract: Youth Perceptions of Neighborhood Safety and Attachment As Predictors of Violent Behaviors (Society for Social Work and Research 25th Annual Conference - Social Work Science for Social Change)

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49P Youth Perceptions of Neighborhood Safety and Attachment As Predictors of Violent Behaviors

Tuesday, January 19, 2021
* noted as presenting author
Emily Saeteurn, MSW, Doctoral Student, Arizona State University, Phoenix, AZ
Shiyou Wu, PhD, Assistant Professor, Arizona State University, Phoenix, AZ
Background/Purpose: Youth violence, which includes fighting, bullying, threatening with weapons, and gang-related violence, is plaguing the United States and has grown to epidemic proportions. In the US, homicide is the third leading cause of death for young people between the ages of 10-24 as approximately 14 young people die from homicide each day. Furthermore, approximately 1,300 young people are treated daily in hospital emergency rooms for non-fatal injuries related to violence and the estimated medical care costs and lost productivity costs associated with youth violence exceeds $21 billion annually. There are several factors that are associated with a youth’s experience of violence, both as a victim and as an offender. Youth that live in impoverished, lower-socioeconomic neighborhoods are not only more likely to be witnesses or victims of violence, but are also more likely to engage in violent delinquency. Additionally, youth who are direct victims of violence or experience vicarious victimization through exposure to violence perceive their neighborhoods as less safe than youth who do not experience direct or indirect violence in their neighborhoods. While there is ample research regarding youth violence, there is limited research regarding perceptions of neighborhood safety and attachment as predictors of violent behavior in youth. The purpose of this study was to address this gap by examining the association between youth’s perceived neighborhood safety and attachment and youth violent behavior.

Methods: This study was a secondary quantitative data analysis of the 2018 Arizona Youth Survey. The data was collected from fifteen counties across 246 schools in Arizona. Participants (n = 49,009) were in eighth, tenth, and twelfth grade. Descriptive statistics were run for all variables under consideration. An ordinary least squares regression was then conducted to examine the relationship between youth violent behaviors and perceived neighborhood safety and attachment while controlling for demographic factors at the individual, familial and household, school, and peer levels.

Results: Youth’s perceived neighborhood safety and attachment was a significant predictor of violent behaviors. Higher youth violent behavior scores were associated with lower scores on the neighborhood safety and attachment scale. Or, other things being equal, every one unit increase in neighborhood safety and attachment scores was associated with a .029 decrease in youth violent behavior scores.

Conclusions/Implications: Social worker researchers should engage youth and adults in communities via community based participatory research (CBPR). Individuals residing in communities with higher prevalence of youth violence can define for themselves what youth violence encompasses, identify risk and protective factors in their community, and provide suggestions for addressing and preventing youth violence using the CBRP approach. Furthermore, social workers should strive to foster partnerships/relationships between community members and agencies that can provide support services to families and youth. Several risk factors that contribute to youth violence have been identified in this study. If social workers link community members to agencies that can address specific risk factors, such as after school programs for youth as a means to prevent gang involvement/affiliation, communities could see a positive change and decline in youth violent behaviors.