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May 1997

Children's Exposure to Violence in an Urban Setting

Author Affiliations

From the Divisions of General Academic Pediatrics (Drs Sheehan and Kaufer Christoffel), Pediatric Emergency Medicine (Dr Sheehan), and General Medicine (Dr DiCara), and the Statistical Science and Epidemiology Program (Dr LeBailly), Children's Memorial Hospital, Northwestern University Medical School, Chicago, Ill.

Arch Pediatr Adolesc Med. 1997;151(5):502-504. doi:10.1001/archpedi.1997.02170420072012

Objective:  To assess the exposure to violence of a representative sample of children living in an inner-city public housing development.

Design:  Self-report survey.

Setting:  Chicago public housing development that covers 4 census tracts; population, 95% African American, 75% below the poverty level.

Participants:  One hundred forty-six African American youth, aged 7 through 13 years, completed the survey; 53% were male; mean and median ages, 11 years. Seventy-two children (case subjects) are involved in a community-based health and recreation program. They completed the survey prior to participating in a peer-mentoring violence prevention curriculum. The other 74 children (control subjects) were recruited by a community member going door to door. Control subjects were matched to case subjects for age, sex, and census tract.

Results:  The case and control subjects were similar in their exposure to violence and so were grouped for analysis. Of the 146 children, 42% had seen someone shot and 37% had seen someone stabbed; 21% lived with someone who had been shot and 16% lived with someone who had been stabbed. Forty-seven percent of the girls and 55% of the boys had witnessed violence (P>.25). Almost all subjects (90%) felt safe at home. Two thirds (65%) of the children were not afraid to play outside, but almost half (43%) worried about getting hurt at school.

Conclusions:  These data, which describe a representative sample of children from an inner-city housing project, confirm the results from older clinic- and school-based convenience samples. In this low-income community, children are frequently exposed to deadly violence. In contrast with other reports, girls here are not spared.Arch Pediatr Adolesc Med. 1997;151:502-504