Exposure to community violence and preschool children's behavioral and social functioning: the mediating role of parental depression and children's social cognition Public Deposited

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  • March 20, 2019
  • Wojciechowski, Jennifer M.
    • Affiliation: School of Education
  • Past research has indicated that children exposed to violence have negative behavioral and social outcomes. However, few studies have investigated specifically how exposure to violence affects young children’s functioning. Additionally, current violence research stresses the importance of identifying mechanisms through which violence exposure affects children; however, little research has been conducted to explore the pathways through which young children’s exposure to violence leads to maladjustment. In this study, prevalence and types of violence (i.e., victimization and witnessed) exposure among preschool children residing outside of inner-cities as well as negative behavioral and social outcomes were explored. More specifically, the study had four purposes: (1) to determine if prevalence of young children’s violence exposure differs as a function of children’s race and gender, (2) to determine if violence exposure predicts problem behaviors, aggression, and deficits in social functioning, (3) to explore the potential mediating role of parental depression, and (4) to explore the possible mediating role of children’s social cognition. Data collected during the Preschool Behavior Project Revised (PBP-R) conducted at the Frank Porter Graham Child Development Institute at the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill was utilized to investigate these issues. Participants in the study included Head Start children, parents, and classroom teachers. Results indicated that children’s gender and race did not statistically significantly predict prevalence of violence exposure. Findings also suggested that exposure to violence through victimization significantly predicts aggression in preschool children. Specifically, children exposed to violence as victims had a higher likelihood of exhibiting aggressive behavior than children with no violence exposure or who witnessed violence exposure. However, violence exposure did not significantly predict problem behaviors or social skills deficits in children. Results indicated that parental depression mediated the relationship between children’s exposure to violence and children’s problem behaviors and social functioning. Furthermore, path analyses indicated indirect effects between exposure to violence (i.e., total exposure and witnessing) and children’s social skills and problem behaviors via parental depression. Children’s social cognition did not mediate the relationship between children’s exposure to violence and negative outcomes. Limitations of the study and implications for future research are discussed.
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  • In Copyright
  • Wasik, Barbara Hanna
  • Open access

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