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Culyba AJ, Abebe KZ, Albert SM, et al. Association of Future Orientation With Violence Perpetration Among Male Youths in Low-Resource Neighborhoods. JAMA Pediatr. 2018;172(9):877–879. doi:10.1001/jamapediatrics.2018.1158
Youth violence is pervasive and increases risk of injury and incarceration.1 Future orientation, defined as hopes and plans for the future, is associated with multiple prosocial outcomes, including school engagement and successful transition to adulthood.2 Research on the potentially protective role of future orientation in preventing violence perpetration is limited, and it has tended to focus narrowly on perceived life expectancy and, to a lesser extent, job aspirations.3,4 With use of a more comprehensive measure, we examined the association between future orientation and violence perpetration, including fighting and weapon-related violence, among male youths in low-resource neighborhoods.
We enrolled 866 males aged 13 to 19 years through youth-serving community agencies in 20 low-resource neighborhoods in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, from August 2015 to June 2017, in an ongoing cluster-randomized violence prevention trial. Eligible youths were residents in intervention site neighborhoods who were willing to participate in the prevention program. Participants completed baseline in-person surveys on tablets (iPad Air; Apple) about future orientation, violence perpetration, school enrollment, and demographic characteristics. Study personnel obtained verbal participant assent (for participants 13 to 17 years of age) or consent (for participants ≥18 years of age). Data were deidentified with a secret code that was used to link survey responses to study participants. This involved answering a series of survey questions that were then combined to generate the code. The University of Pittsburgh Institutional Review Board approved the study with a waiver of parental permission. Participants received $10 remuneration.
Participants completed 7 future orientation questions that encompassed aspirations, goal-setting, and contribution and were operationalized on a 5-point Likert scale.5 Positive future orientation was defined as 4 = “a lot like me” or 5 = “exactly like me.” A binary summary future orientation score was defined as a mean of 4 or greater across the 7 items (Cronbach α = .93). Three validated Youth Risk Behavior Survey items6 assessed violence perpetration within the past 9 months: fighting, threatening someone with a weapon, and injuring someone with a weapon.
Unadjusted logistic regression was used to examine associations between each future orientation item and the 3 measures of violence perpetration as well as between the summary future orientation score and perpetration outcomes. Adjusted models accounted for age, race/ethnicity, school enrollment, and caregiver educational level, because these characteristics have previously been associated with future orientation and violence perpetration.3 Analyses were conducted using Stata, version 15.0 (StataCorp).
Mean participant age was 15.5 years (SD, 1.64 years), and 632 of 816 (77.5%) were black/African American (Table 1). In the previous 9 months, 66.4% (545 of 821 participants) had been in a fight, 28.6% (236 of 824 participants) had threatened someone with a weapon, and 14.7% (121 of 826 participants) had injured someone with a weapon. Four hundred eighty of 866 participants (58.3%) had a binary summary future orientation score of 1.
Having a positive future orientation was associated with significantly lower odds of threatening someone with a weapon (adjusted odds ratio [AOR], 0.66; 95% CI, 0.48-0.92) and injuring someone with a weapon (AOR, 0.60; 95% CI, 0.39-0.91) (Table 2). Placing high importance on reaching personal goals and believing in one’s ability to make a positive difference in the world were associated with significantly lower odds of threatening someone with a weapon (AOR, 0.56 [95% CI, 0.38-0.83] and 0.69 [95% CI, 0.50-0.96], respectively) and injuring someone with a weapon (AOR, 0.45 [95% CI, 0.28-0.72] and 0.59 [95% CI, 0.39-0.90], respectively). There were no significant associations between future orientation and being in a physical fight.
Among predominantly black/African American male youths in low-resource neighborhoods, positive future orientation was associated with significantly lower odds of weapon-related violence perpetration. Building on earlier research that demonstrated inverse associations between perceived life expectancy, career aspirations, and violence perpetration,3,4 this study used a more comprehensive measure of future orientation and demonstrated inverse associations between aspirations, goal-setting, and contribution and perpetrating violence with a weapon. Limitations include a cross-sectional design that precludes assessing causation and the potential for reverse causation and unmeasured confounding.
African American male youths in low-resource urban neighborhoods bear a disproportionate burden of violence exposure and involvement.1 Identifying promotive factors is essential for designing interventions that recognize the strengths of young people and marshal those strengths to protect youth. Interventions that promote positive future orientation may be important in reducing risk of violence perpetration.
Accepted for Publication: April 3, 2018.
Corresponding Author: Alison J. Culyba, MD, PhD, MPH, Division of Adolescent and Young Adult Medicine, Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh of UPMC, University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, 3420 Fifth Ave, Pittsburgh, PA 15213 (firstname.lastname@example.org).
Published Online: July 2, 2018. doi:10.1001/jamapediatrics.2018.1158
Author Contributions: Drs Culyba and Miller had full access to all of the data in the study and take responsibility for the integrity of the data and the accuracy of the data analysis.
Study concept and design: Culyba, Paglisotti, Miller.
Acquisition, analysis, or interpretation of data: All authors.
Drafting of the manuscript: Culyba.
Critical revision of the manuscript for important intellectual content: All authors.
Statistical analysis: Culyba, Abebe, Albert, Jones.
Obtained funding: Culyba, Miller.
Administrative, technical, or material support: Albert, Miller.
Study supervision: Miller.
Conflict of Interest Disclosures: None reported.
Funding/Support: This study was supported in part by grant KL2 TR001856 from the National Institutes of Health (Dr Culyba) and grant U01CE002528 from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (Drs Miller and Abebe).
Role of the Funder/Sponsor: The funders had no role in the design and conduct of the study; collection, management, analysis, and interpretation of the data; and preparation, review, or approval of the manuscript; and decision to submit the manuscript for publication.
Additional Contributions: We thank the many youths, community partners, parents, school administrators, and violence prevention advocates who are participating in this study.