Criminal Behaviour and Mental Health

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Volume 29 Issue 2 (April 2019), Pages 69-130

Parallel‐process trajectories of exposure to violence and psychological distress among justice‐involved youth (pages 74-84)

Abstract Background Researchers have raised awareness of high levels of violence exposure among justice‐involved adolescents and its association with psychological distress, yet the relationship between the violence and psychological distress has rarely been studied longitudinally. Aim This study aimed to gain understanding of the relationship between long‐term exposure to violence and the development of psychological distress among justice‐involved adolescents. Methods We examined exposure to violence and emergent psychological distress among adolescents using latent growth model analyses with a sample of 1,336 young people—male and female—who completed 10 follow‐up interviews over 7 years as part of the Pathways to Desistance study. We tested four models: (a) changes in exposure to violence over time, (b) changes in psychological distress over time, (c) the contemporaneous, parallel processes of changes in exposure to violence and psychological distress over time, and (d) differences in the evolution of violence exposure and psychological distress across sex and race/ethnicity. Results For the sample as a whole, exposure to violence decreased over time, as did psychological distress, but their relationship to each other was consistent. There were individual differences, however, and the subgroup of young African Americans did not experience the reduction in exposure to violence reported by the young Whites and Hispanics. Conclusions and implications for practice Trajectories of exposure to violence and related psychological distress did not escalate over time as expected. In light of these findings, more research is needed on the heterogeneity of violence exposure and its negative psychological impacts.

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