Violence, a risk factor for poor mental health in adolescence: a Danish nationally representative youth survey

Scand J Public Health. 2011 Dec;39(8):849-56. doi: 10.1177/1403494811421638. Epub 2011 Oct 26.


Aims: To analyze mental health associations between youth's exposure to physical violence outside the home and at home, including witnessing domestic violence, and to describe gender differences in the associations.

Methods: A multimedia computer-based survey among a nationally representative sample of 6,200 9th grade pupils included data on violence victimization, symptoms of anxiety and depression, psychosocial and health behaviour factors. Analyses included gender stratified cross-tabulations and logistic regressions.

Results: Direct associations were found for both sexes between anxiety and depression and exposure to mild and severe physical violence both outside the home and at home. Adjusted for possible confounding factors, associations for severe violence exposure both at home and outside the home were found only among girls; odds ratio (OR): 2.4 [1.3-4.7]) and OR: 3.0 [1.1-8.6], respectively. Exposure to severe violence at home remained a strong risk factor for internalizing symptoms for boys, OR: 3.6 [1.4-9.2]. In the adjusted model, a stronger association was found between bad relationships with peers and poor mental health for boys than for girls; OR: 2.0 [1.6-2.3] and OR: 1.4 [1.3-1.6], respectively. For both sexes, witnessing physical violence against mother at home was associated with mental health problems, but did not remain a risk factor when adjusted for confounders.

Conclusions: Gender differences exist in harmful mental health associations with regard to exposure to violence. For girls, violence outside the home is a stronger risk factor than violence at home, compared with boys.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adolescent Behavior / psychology
  • Child
  • Child Abuse, Sexual / psychology
  • Denmark
  • Domestic Violence / psychology
  • Female
  • Health Surveys / methods
  • Humans
  • Life Change Events
  • Male
  • Mental Health*
  • Risk Assessment
  • Risk Factors
  • Sex Factors
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Violence / psychology*