Damaged youth: prevalence of community violence exposure and implications for adolescent well-being in post-conflict Northern Ireland



As Northern Ireland transitions to a post-conflict society the nature of violent victimization and its influence on adolescents following the “Troubles” becomes an even more important area of interest. Adolescents are particularly at risk of victimization and associated social, emotional, and psychological health problems. In this analysis of the fifth year of the Belfast Youth Development Study (BYDS), the prevalence and implications of exposure to violence is examined for a sample of 3,828 young people (aged 15–16 years). Knowledge of violent events was particularly prevalent suggesting that the social and psychological legacy of the “Troubles” may pass onto post-conflict generations. Over three quarters of young people had experienced violence within their community. Exposure was associated with higher levels of depression, psychotic symptoms, and substance misuse. The findings suggest that adolescents in Northern Ireland are vulnerable to both direct and vicarious victimization, and, subsequently, to significant risks to psychological well-being. © 2009 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.