The Effects of Community Violence on Children & Teens

As many as three-fourths of children and teens living in high-crime urban areas come into contact with violent acts, according to the U.S. Department of Veteran's Affairs 1. Exposure to community violence can negatively affect psychological development and create a stressful environment at home and school 2. Community prevention and intervention programs provide support and guidance to families dealing with the effect of violence.

Effect on Psychological Development

Children and teens who encounter violence can develop adverse psychological characteristics. Kids in neighborhoods with higher crime rates might have a view of the world that is hostile and dangerous, according to the Child Study Center, which is part of the NYU Langone Medical Center in New York. Anxiety, fear, post-traumatic stress disorder and being withdrawn are symptoms that children and teens are internalizing their problems, whereas taking on violent behaviors, such as:

  • bullying
  • vandalism or joining a gang
  • are external reactions

Academic Consequences

Living in a community with high crime rates and exposure to violent acts can take a toll on academic performance. Lack of concentration, poor grades and a decrease in retention rates are signs community violence is having a negative effect on education, according to a 2000 article in the journal "School Psychology Review." Frequency of exposure to violence, the level of personal connection to a crime, support provided by family and prevention and intervention programs all seem to play a role in the severity of the detrimental effects on academics 1.

Parental Support and Resilience

Parental support and resilience can help to lessen the negative effect of community violence on children and teens 1. Higher levels of parental education and monitoring can positively influence behaviors and reduce the adverse effects of living in high-crime areas, according to a 2003 article in the journal "Clinical Child and Psychology Family Review." The article also points out that parental support is a strong predictor of the level of resilient functioning in children and teens. Resilience is a significant factor associated with overcoming exposure to violence and the decreasing the risk of psychological issues.

Prevention and Intervention

Neighborhoods with high levels of community violence often make prevention and intervention programs available to children, teens, and their parents or guardians 1. According to the Child Study Center, these programs are beneficial, not only because they teach nonviolent coping mechanisms, but they also create a safer environment where children and teens can vent frustrations and fears. Studies show that prevention techniques are most effective for children in early childhood. As children grow into adolescence, programs become more focused on intervening and helping teens heal from the damage resulting from community violence 1.