Amplification or Inoculation: Understanding the Interacting Effects of Political and Community Violence on Externalizing Behaviors

Larissa M. Gaias, Sarah Lindstrom Johnson, Andres Molano

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Objective: The broad and negative impact of political and community violence on adolescent development is known, but knowledge regarding the interacting impacts of these experiences is limited. Experiencing one form of violence may amplify or inoculate the effects of exposure to another form of violence. The aim of this study was to test these contrasting hypotheses by examining interactions between armed conflict events, displacement, and community violence witnessing and victimization on Colombian adolescents’ externalizing behaviors. Method: Data were collected from 3,483 adolescents (Mage = 14.09, SD = 1.86; 52% female) in 12 rural and urban schools in Colombia. Adolescents reported on their exposure to political and community violence and their externalizing behaviors (i.e., delinquency, violence behaviors, drug and alcohol use). A series of structural equation models were conducted to analyze the individual and interacting effects of violence exposure on externalizing behaviors. Results: Armed conflict and community violence witnessing and victimization, but not displacement, were independently related to externalizing behaviors. The effects of witnessing on externalizing behaviors were amplified by armed conflict, but the effects of victimization were inoculated by displacement. Conclusion: Our results find support for both of two competing hypotheses. This study emphasizes the need for research to continue considering the complexity of adolescents’ experiences with violence, in order to understand how particular combinations of violence exposure are associated with development in unique ways. This nuanced understanding of how the effects of multiple forms of violence may manifest in adolescent behavior has implications for clinical intervention.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalPsychology of Violence
DOIs
StateAccepted/In press - 2021

Keywords

  • armed conflict
  • community violence
  • displacement
  • externalizing behavior
  • moderation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Psychology
  • Health(social science)
  • Applied Psychology

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