Features of the Organized Youth Activity Setting that Protect Against Exposure to Community Violence
thesisposted on 21.07.2015, 00:00 by Ebony J. Burnside
There is consistent evidence that at least one in every pair of youth in inner-city areas has previous exposure to community violence (Stein et al., 2003). Affected communities have responded by developing indigenous programs that successfully engage vulnerable youth, to diminish negative outcomes. Yet few studies have researched these activities in the wake of high prevalence rates. Using a cross-sectional design, the current study investigated setting features of an indigenous, community-based drill team, differentiating behavioral and mental health outcomes among African-American youth exposed to community violence. Specifically, positive perceptions of supportive relationships with adult staff, sense of community and connectedness, and norms for behavior were expected to protect against community violence exposure. Sixty-five participants age 13-20 responded to surveys indicating their level of exposure to community violence and violence-related crime, perceptions of activity setting features, and behavior and mental health. Multiple linear regression revealed a nullified relationship between exposure and delinquency and exposure and drug use for youth perceiving more supportive relationships or a greater sense of community (protective-stabilizing effect). In addition, psychological well-being, which was unaffected by exposure, was better for those reporting a greater sense of community or perceived peer-acceptance of prosocial behavior. These findings emerged regardless of the amount of time spent in the drill team and the level of youths’ parental monitoring and involvement. Additional studies are needed to investigate indigenous youth activities as promotive settings for youth exposed to community violence, and program setting features as mechanisms by which programs may impact youth outcomes.