The effects of family and community violence on children

Annu Rev Psychol. 2000:51:445-79. doi: 10.1146/annurev.psych.51.1.445.


This review examines theoretical and empirical literature on children's reactions to three types of violence--child maltreatment, community violence, and interparental violence. In addition to describing internalizing and externalizing problems associated with exposure to violence, this review identifies ways that violence can disrupt typical developmental trajectories through psychobiological effects, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), cognitive consequences, and peer problems. Methodological challenges in this literature include high rates of co-occurrence among types of violence exposure, co-occurrence of violence with other serious life adversities, heterogeneity in the frequency, severity, age of onset, and chronicity of exposure, and difficulties in making causal inferences. A developmental psychopathology perspective focuses attention on how violence may have different effects at different ages and may compromise children's abilities to face normal developmental challenges. Emphasis is placed on the variability of children's reactions to violence, on outcomes that go beyond diagnosable disorders, and on variables that mediate and moderate children's reactions to violence.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Child
  • Child Abuse / psychology
  • Child Behavior Disorders / psychology*
  • Child Development*
  • Humans
  • Mental Disorders / psychology
  • Psychopathology
  • Spouse Abuse / psychology
  • Violence / psychology*