Adolescents' exposure to violence and associated symptoms of psychological trauma

JAMA. 1995 Feb 8;273(6):477-82.


Objective: To examine the extent to which adolescents are exposed to various types of violence as either victims or witnesses, and the association of such exposure with trauma symptoms; specifically, the hypotheses that exposure to violence will have a positive and significant association with depression, anger, anxiety, dissociation, posttraumatic stress, and total trauma symptoms.

Design and setting: The study employed a survey design using an anonymous self-report questionnaire administered to students (grades 9 through 12) in six public high schools during the 1992-1993 school year.

Participants: Sixty-eight percent of the students attending the participating schools during the survey participated in the study (N = 3735). Ages ranged from 14 to 19 years; 52% were female; and 35% were African American, 33% white, and 23% Hispanic.

Results: All hypotheses were supported. Multiple regression analyses of the total sample revealed that violence exposure variables (and to a lesser extent, demographic variables) explained a significant portion of variance in all trauma symptom scores, including depression (R2 = .31), anger (R2 = .30), dissociation (R2 = .23), posttraumatic stress (R2 = .31), and total trauma (R2 = .37).

Conclusions: A significant and consistent association was demonstrated linking violence exposure to trauma symptoms within a diverse sample of high school students. Our findings give evidence of the need to identify and provide trauma-related services for adolescents who have been exposed to violence.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adolescent Behavior* / psychology
  • Analysis of Variance
  • Anger
  • Depression / epidemiology
  • Dissociative Disorders / epidemiology
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Mental Health*
  • Regression Analysis
  • Sex Offenses / psychology
  • Sex Offenses / statistics & numerical data
  • Stress Disorders, Post-Traumatic* / epidemiology
  • Stress Disorders, Post-Traumatic* / physiopathology
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Violence / psychology*
  • Violence / statistics & numerical data