Do urban adolescents become desensitized to community violence? Data from a national survey

Am J Orthopsychiatry. 2007 Jul;77(3):434-42. doi: 10.1037/0002-9432.77.3.434.


This study explored whether the response of urban adolescents to community violence exposure differs from their response to family violence and sexual assault. More specifically, the authors explored whether desensitization to community violence exposure was more common compared with desensitization to other violence-related stressors. Participants included 1,245 urban adolescents drawn from a national probability sample of 4,023 youth (aged 12-17 years) who were interviewed about their history of interpersonal violence exposure, symptoms of posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and delinquency. A negative curvilinear effect of community violence exposure on PTSD combined with a positive linear effect of exposure on delinquency was considered evidence for desensitization. Results provided minimal support for the desensitization hypothesis and revealed increasing levels of PTSD symptoms and delinquent behaviors among boys and girls exposed to higher levels of all three violence types.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Attitude*
  • Child
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Residence Characteristics*
  • Stress Disorders, Post-Traumatic / epidemiology*
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Urban Population / statistics & numerical data*
  • Violence*