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Perceptions of Safety and Community Violence: Does Gender Matter?

Sat, March 23, 12:45 to 2:00pm, Baltimore Convention Center, Floor: Level 1, Exhibit Hall B

Integrative Statement

Within research, gender differences in exposure to community violence (ECV) are well documented (Buka et al., 2001). Similarly, research has demonstrated significant gender differences in the psychosocial implications of community violence exposure (Zona & Milan, 2011). Specifically, girls report more dissociative internalizing and externalizing behaviors as compared to boys (Zona & Milan, 2011). Research also suggests that perceptions of neighborhood safety can also influence quality of life, perceptions of well-being, as well as self-efficacy (Van Horn et al., 2007). Milam and colleagues (2010), determined that ECV negatively impacts academic performance whereas perceptions of safety are related to increased academic performance. As such, there may be an important relationship between perceptions of safety and ECV and this may help in exploring the unique gender differences in the psychosocial implications of ECV. However, less is known about gender differences in both perceptions of safety and ECV in ethnic minority populations. The aim of this study is two-fold. First, consistent with the literature, we hypothesize that there will be gender differences in community violence exposure and reports of mental health in ethnic minority youths. Secondly, we hypothesize that witnessing community violence will be associated with higher levels of externalizing and internalizing behaviors. Additionally, we hypothesize the rates of exposure and it’s relation to mental health will differ across ethnic minority populations.

The current study examines gender differences in perceptions of safety and community violence exposure in a sample of 753 Latino and African American individuals who participated in the Chicago Neighborhoods Study. The average age of the children was 9 years old with 46.1% of the sample being female. In this study, we examined reports of internalizing and externalizing behaviors via the CBCL, reports of ECV and perceptions of safety. The CBCL consists of 113 items regarding child’s internalizing and externalizing behaviors. ECV and perceptions of safety were captured by self-report of witnessed or experienced violence as well as questions regarding safety in the community. Independent t-tests revealed gendered mean differences related to ECV and perceptions of safety. Interestingly, we found that females reported lower perceptions of safety, whereas males reported witnessing more violence. Moreover, hierarchical linear regression analyses revealed that when controlling for gender, witnessing violence, was predictive of internalizing and externalizing behaviors. Conversely, perceptions of safety were not significantly predictive of internalizing or externalizing behaviors. Implications of gendered differences in perceptions of safety, ECV and their psychosocial implications will be discussed.

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