Witnessing Community Violence in Residential Neighborhoods: A Mental Health Hazard for Urban Women

Division of General Medicine and Primary Care, Center for Community Health and Health Equity, Brigham and Women's Hospital, and Department of Biostatistics, Harvard School of Public Health, Boston, MA 02120, USA.
Journal of Urban Health (Impact Factor: 1.9). 02/2008; 85(1):22-38. DOI: 10.1007/s11524-007-9229-8
Source: PubMed


We examined the prevalence and psychological correlates of witnessing community violence among women of low socioeconomic status living in urban neighborhoods in the northeastern United States. Three hundred eighty-six women receiving their health care at an urban community health center were sampled to assess their violence exposures. Women were asked to report the location and timing of their exposure to witnessing violent neighborhood events in which they were not participants. The Brief Symptoms Inventory was used to assess anxiety and depressive symptoms. Controlling for marital status, educational attainment, age, and intimate partner violence victimization, women who witnessed violent acts in their neighborhoods were twice as likely to experience depressive and anxiety symptoms compared to women who did not witness community violence. Central American-born women had particularly high exposures. We conclude that witnessing neighborhood violence is a pervasive experience in this urban cohort, and is associated with anxiety and depressive symptoms, even among women who are not direct participants in violence to which they are exposed. Community violence interventions must incorporate efforts to protect the mental health of adult women who witness events in their neighborhoods.

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Available from: Rosalind Wright, Oct 27, 2014
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    • "e urban areas in the USA, of which the prevalence of witnessing community violence (WCV) amongst urban populations is considered striking. (11) An American cohort study found the majority of participants (57%) were exposed to violence greater than twelve months before the study interview, and 19% witnessed events within twelve months of the study. (12) "
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    • "Although employment may function as a type of personal resource, it may also create " negative spillover " from the workplace to the household, causing psychological distress (Riley & Bowen, 2005). Additionally, individuals living in less socially cohesive neighborhoods are more likely to smoke and less likely to exercise (Clark et al., 2008). "
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    • "Approximately 28% of these women reported a history of childhood abuse, compared to general population estimates of 10%. Urban minority women also experience heightened levels of community violence (Clark et al., 2007; Brown, Hill, & Lambert, 2005). Not surprisingly, given their heightened risk for exposure to trauma, urban low-income minority women experience elevated levels of PTSD compared to the general population (Breslau et al., 1991; Breslau et al., 1998; Kessler et al., 1995; Stein, Walker, Hazen, & Forde, 1997). "
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