Using data from the 1995 National Survey of Adolescents (NSA), this study examines the consequences of exposure to violence on adolescents.
In our society, exposure to violence is a common event. A number of deleterious outcomes have been associated with exposure to violence, such as an increased risk of drug abuse and engagement in delinquent behavior. It is possible that the setting in which violence is witnessed is important to how juveniles are affected by that violence. As such, the current study analyzed the impact of exposure to violence on various forms of delinquency, particularly violence in school settings. The two main research objectives were to replicate and extend the original analysis of the NSA and to examine the context and consequences of school violence. Data for the NSA were derived from a national probability telephone sample of 4,023 juveniles between the ages of 12 and 17. Respondents were asked about their experiences with victimization, other forms of exposure to stressful life events, their assessment of peer and family deviance, their own delinquent activities, and several indicators of drug and alcohol abuse. Results of frequencies, cross-tabular, and logistic regression analysis revealed important differences between the original analysis and the current findings. The original analysis found that one of the strongest predictors of drug abuse was witnessing violence. In the current study, controls for income, peer deviance, and location of witnessed violence eliminated the significance of PTSD on drug abuse. Furthermore, when the location of the violence was controlled, exposure to violence was only a predictor of marijuana use. As for the second research objective of examining the context and consequences of school violence on adolescents, the analysis revealed that witnessing violence in school was a risk factor for engaging in serious forms of delinquency and for believing that violence was a serious problem in schools and communities. However, witnessing violence at school, or any other location, was found to increase the risk of using marijuana, but not other drugs or alcohol. As such, witnessing violence does increase the general risk for drug and alcohol behaviors but no particular location for witnessing violence generates a larger risk than others. The relationship between witnessing violence and problem behavior may be due to the opportunities for delinquent behavior in these settings. Appendix, references
Date Published: August 1, 2003