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February 8, 1995

Adolescents' Exposure to Violence and Associated Symptoms of Psychological Trauma

JAMA. 1995;273(6):477-482. doi:10.1001/jama.1995.03520300051036

Objective.  —To examine the extent to which adolescents are exposed to various types of violence as either victims or witnesses, and the association of such exposure with trauma symptoms; specifically, the hypotheses that exposure to violence will have a positive and significant association with depression, anger, anxiety, dissociation, posttraumatic stress, and total trauma symptoms.

Design and Setting.  —The study employed a survey design using an anonymous self-report questionnaire administered to students (grades 9 through 12) in six public high schools during the 1992-1993 school year.

Participants.  —Sixty-eight percent of the students attending the participating schools during the survey participated in the study (N=3735). Ages ranged from 14 to 19 years; 52% were female; and 35% were African American, 33% white, and 23% Hispanic.

Results.  —All hypotheses were supported. Multiple regression analyses of the total sample revealed that violence exposure variables (and to a lesser extent, demographic variables) explained a significant portion of variance in all trauma symptom scores, including depression (R2=.31), anger (R2=.30), anxiety (R2=.30), dissociation (R2=.23), posttraumatic stress (R2=.31), and total trauma (R2=.37).

Conclusions.  —A significant and consistent association was demonstrated linking violence exposure to trauma symptoms within a diverse sample of high school students. Our findings give evidence of the need to identify and provide trauma-related services for adolescents who have been exposed to violence.(JAMA. 1995;273:477-482)