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01-02-2015 | Empirical Research | Uitgave 2/2015

Journal of Youth and Adolescence 2/2015

Exposure to Violence, Social Cognitive Processing, and Sleep Problems in Urban Adolescents

Journal of Youth and Adolescence > Uitgave 2/2015
Wendy Kliewer, Stephen J. Lepore


Exposure to violence is associated with elevated levels of sleep problems in adolescence, which contributes to poor mental and physical health and impaired academic performance. However, reasons underlying the associations between exposure to violence and sleep difficulty have not been examined. This study tested a social cognitive processing path model linking experiences of witnessing and directly experiencing community violence and sleep problems. Participants were 362 early adolescents (M age = 12.45 years, SD = 0.59; range 11–14 years; 48.9 % male; 51 % Latino/a; 34 % black) from urban communities enrolled in a middle-school-based intervention study on the east coast of the United States that was designed to reduce the negative effects of exposure to violence. All youth in the current study reported witnessing or directly experiencing community violence. Adolescents completed four school-based assessments over an 18-month period, reporting on their exposure to community violence, sleep problems, intrusive thoughts about and social constraints in talking about violence, and life events. A path model that included both victimization and witnessing violence revealed that wave 1 witnessing violence, but not victimization, was associated with elevated social constraints in talking about violence at wave 2, which was associated with elevated intrusive thoughts at wave 3, which was associated with poor sleep quality at wave 4. Prior levels of all constructs were controlled in the analysis, in addition to life events, single parent household status, children’s age and sex, intervention condition, and school. Youth exposed to violence may benefit from help in processing their experiences, thus reducing social constraints in talking about their experiences and associated intrusive thoughts. This is turn may improve sleep outcomes.

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