Purpose: Although disaster exposure has been linked with increased child aggression by previous reports, population-level trends are unknown. Pre- to post-Katrina changes in violence-related behaviors among New Orleans high school youth (ages: 12-18 years) were assessed.
Methods: Data from the 2003 (pre-Katrina), 2005 (pre-Katrina), and 2007 (post-Katrina) New Orleans Youth Risk Behavior Survey (n = 5,267) were used. Crude comparisons across years of population characteristics and violence behavior prevalence were made with χ(2) analyses. Changes in violence-related behaviors over time were assessed with logistic regression models including indicators for survey years and controls for compositional changes.
Results: Age, gender, and race/ethnicity of school-attending youth were stable across years. In models controlling for demographics, most behaviors were stable over time. Some changes were observed for all groups; dating violence and forced sex increased before the storm, whereas weapon-carrying and missing school as a result of feeling unsafe decreased after the storm. Among African American adolescents only, being threatened at school increased before Katrina.
Conclusions: Results do not support significant population-level increases in violent behavior post-Katrina among school-attending youth in New Orleans. Factors that buffered New Orleans students from post-Katrina violence increases, such as population composition changes or increased supportive services, may explain these findings.
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