The University of Alabama proposes the project titled, "Exposure to Violence, Trauma, and Juvenile Court Involvement: A Longitudinal Analysis of Mobile Youth and Poverty Study Data (1998-2011)." Each year, millions of youths in the United States are exposed to community violence either as witnesses or victim; this problem is particularly acute in impoverished inner-city neighborhoods, where levels of community violence are most pronounced. Many of these violence-exposed youths experience traumatic stress and other forms of psychological (mal)adjustment, leading to behaviors that result in contact with the juvenile justice system. In this study, researchers at the University of Alabama will examine the pathway from exposure to community violence to juvenile justice involvement, mediated by psychological adjustment and educational outcomes, and moderated by demographic factors, social support (family, school, neighborhood), and neighborhood context.
The researchers will use data from the Mobile Youth and Poverty Study (MYPS) to estimate statistical models associated with these pathways. MYPS data were collected in the Mobile, Alabama Metropolitan Statistical Area (MSA). Mobile, the largest city in the MSA, has a population of 195,111. The MYPS archive has several components, including: the Mobile Youth Survey (MYS) administered annually to youths (aged 10-18) between 1998 and 2011 living in the most impoverished neighborhoods in the MSA; Mobile County Juvenile Court and Mobile County Public School System records for MYS participants; and geocoded crime reports from the Mobile Police Department. The sample for this study consists of over 8,000 MYS participants who provided at least two longitudinal MYS data points.
Primary analyses will consist of cross-lagged panel analyses using multi-level mixed models with both temporal and spatial nesting, supplemented by analyses conducted using a latent growth curve framework. Based on these analyses, the researchers will: (a) generate findings that will fill critical gaps in the juvenile justice literature, particularly those related to mediating factors that help explain the relationship between exposure to traumatic events and juvenile justice involvement in high-poverty neighborhoods; (b) provide information on critical developmental points where intervention can be most effective in reducing juvenile justice involvement for trauma-exposed youths; and (c) provide a framework for identifying and selecting programs that can be effective in reducing juvenile justice involvement for trauma-exposed youths.
The researchers will produce journal articles, present at national conferences, and disseminate findings to a broader audience of practitioners and the public, including the Mobile juvenile court, public schools, police department, and other area agencies and foundations that may be able to use the results to inform programming and future research.