The effects of gangs and gang violence on adolescents
Gang violence is an escalating public health problem in the United States (US) (Denninghoff, Knox, Cunningham, & Partain, 2002; Goguen, 2005). Gang violence has affected many people in the United States (US); however, it may have the greatest effect on adolescents. The purpose of this dissertation is to examine adolescents exposure to gang violence.
Four manuscripts compose this dissertation research project. The first manuscript is an integrated review of the literature exploring the psychological consequences to adolescents of exposure to gang violence in the community. Adolescents exposed to gang violence can have differing experiences and reactions to it. Adolescents' reactions to their exposure of violence can produce significant externalizing behaviors and internalizing symptom. The second manuscript is a review of different instruments used to measure anxiety in youth exposed to community violence. Specifically it focuses on describing the phenomenon of anxiety in youth exposed to community violence from a conceptual perspective and evaluates three instruments that are routinely used to measure anxiety in that population. The third and four manuscripts are data based research studies. These studies explored the influence of gangs and gang violence on adolescent boys, who had been exposed to gang violence. The specific aims of these studies were to (1) explore the influence of exposure to gang violence on adolescents' mental health, and (2) describe adolescents experiences with gangs and gang violence. Ten adolescent boys, parents or primary care givers, and community center employees' participated in this study. Exposure to gangs and gang violence was a common occurrence in the lives of these adolescents, In addition, several factors (respect, the need for acceptance, fear) motivate adolescents to participate in gangs and gang violence. Adolescents experienced differing emotional reactions to their encounters with gang violence ranging from "feeling scared" to finding the experiences exciting, These manuscripts provide a comprehensive view of gangs and gang violence and the impact it can have on adolescents' mental health development.
Keywords. Gang Violence, Adolescents, Mental Health.