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15-06-2018 | Empirical Research | Uitgave 10/2018

Journal of Youth and Adolescence 10/2018

Effects of Indirect Exposure to Homicide Events on Children’s Mental Health: Evidence from Urban Settings in Colombia

Journal of Youth and Adolescence > Uitgave 10/2018
Andres Molano, Arturo Harker, Juan Camilo Cristancho
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The online version of this article (https://​doi.​org/​10.​1007/​s10964-018-0876-8) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.


Exposure to neighborhood violence is an important risk factor for the social and emotional development of children and youth. Previous work recognizes that violence may affect children indirectly via secondhand exposure; yet, few studies have aimed to identify and quantify these effects, especially in settings like Colombia where youth is chronically exposed to violence. To address this gap in the literature, this article implements an empirical strategy where geographically specific and time-stamped data are leveraged to identify the effect of indirect exposure to homicides on fifth grade children’s social and emotional outcomes. Sample participants (N = 5801) represent the fifth-grade population of boys and girls (50.7%) in two major urban areas in the country (Mage = 11.01, SD = 0.75). We hypothesize that the effects of exposure to neighborhood violence on children’s social and emotional skills will be consistent and negative. The findings indicate a consistent negative effect of indirect exposure to homicides on children’s emotional functioning (i.e., emotional regulation and empathy), as well as on the prevalence of avoidance behaviors. However, contrary to theoretical expectations, the results do not support effects on children’s levels of aggressive behavior, nor on the beliefs and attitudes that justify the use of aggression in interpersonal relationships. The findings are discussed in light of predictions from social cognitive models and their implications for developmentally and trauma-informed interventions for youth.

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