Risk Factors for and Behavioral Consequences of Direct versus Indirect Exposure to Violence

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American Journal of Public Health




Research suggests that direct exposure (personal victimization) and indirect exposure (witnessing or hearing about the victimization of a family member, friend, or neighbor) to violence are correlated. However, questions remain about the co-occurrence of these phenomena within individuals. We used data on 1915 youths (with an average age of 12 years at baseline) from the Project on Human Development in Chicago Neighborhoods to examine this issue. Results indicated that youths who tended to be personally victimized were also likely to witness violence; conversely, youths who disproportionately witnessed violence were relatively unlikely to experience personal victimization. In addition, direct and indirect exposures to violence were associated with subsequent adverse outcomes in similar ways. The key distinguishing factor was, rather, the cumulative level of violence (both direct and indirect) to which youths were exposed.