Parent-youth discordance about youth-witnessed violence: associations with trauma symptoms and service use in an at-risk sample

Child Abuse Negl. 2012 Nov-Dec;36(11-12):790-7. doi: 10.1016/j.chiabu.2012.09.009. Epub 2012 Nov 13.


Objective: Studies have consistently demonstrated a lack of agreement between youth and parent reports regarding youth-witnessed violence. However, little is known about whether disagreement is associated with poorer outcomes and less utilization of mental health services. The purpose of the current study was to examine disagreement among youth and parents about youth witnessed violence, and determine whether concordance predicted trauma symptoms and recognition of need and receipt of counseling services.

Methods: Concordance about youth-witnessed violence was examined in 766 dyads from the Longitudinal Studies of Child Abuse and Neglect (LONGSCAN). Youth participants self-reported trauma symptoms, caregivers indicated youth need for and receipt of services. Both youth and parents provided information about youth-witnessed violence exposure in the last year.

Results: Results showed youth and caregivers differed significantly about youth-witnessed violence. Specifically, 42% of youth reported youth-witnessed violence, compared to only 15% of parents. For those parents who reported youth-witnessed violence, only 29% reported an identified need for services and only 17% reported the youth had received any mental health services. Concordance between parent-youth dyads was associated with greater identified need for services but was not associated with the use of counseling services or trauma symptoms.

Conclusions: Youth who reported witnessing violence reported more frequent trauma symptoms regardless of concordance. Parents from dyads in which both informants reported youth-witnessed violence were more likely to endorse need for, but not receipt of counseling services. Given this association between youth-witnessed violence and mental health problems, more work is needed to identify barriers to concordance as well as service utilization.

Publication types

  • Multicenter Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Caregivers / psychology
  • Child
  • Child Abuse / psychology*
  • Child Abuse / statistics & numerical data
  • Child, Preschool
  • Counseling / statistics & numerical data
  • Female
  • Health Services Needs and Demand / statistics & numerical data
  • Humans
  • Longitudinal Studies
  • Male
  • Mental Disorders / epidemiology
  • Mental Disorders / psychology*
  • Parents / psychology
  • Self Report
  • Stress, Psychological*
  • United States / epidemiology
  • Violence / psychology*
  • Violence / statistics & numerical data