Prevalence and mental health outcomes of homicide survivors in a representative US sample of adolescents: data from the 2005 National Survey of Adolescents

Authors

  • Alyssa A. Rheingold,

    1. National Crime Victims Research and Treatment Center, Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, Medical University of South Carolina, Charleston, SC
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  • Heidi Zinzow,

    1. Department of Psychology, Clemson University, Clemson, SC, USA
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  • Alesia Hawkins,

    1. National Crime Victims Research and Treatment Center, Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, Medical University of South Carolina, Charleston, SC
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  • Benjamin E. Saunders,

    1. National Crime Victims Research and Treatment Center, Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, Medical University of South Carolina, Charleston, SC
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  • Dean G. Kilpatrick

    1. National Crime Victims Research and Treatment Center, Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, Medical University of South Carolina, Charleston, SC
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  • Portions of this research have been previously presented. The research was supported by Grant R01 HD046830. Views contained in this article do not necessarily represent those of the National Institute of Health or its associated agencies.

Abstract

Background:  Each homicide leaves behind several friends and family members, or homicide survivors. However, limited information is available on the impact of homicide on adolescent survivors. The purpose of the current study was to identify the prevalence of homicide survivorship and to determine mental health outcomes within a sample of US adolescent survivors.

Methods:  A nationally representative sample of American adolescents (= 3,614) between the ages of 12 and 17 completed structured telephone interviews assessing homicide survivorship and mental health consequences including posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), depression, drug use, and alcohol abuse.

Results:  Reported prevalence within this sample of losing a loved one to criminal homicide was 9%, losing a loved one to vehicular homicide was 7%, and losing a loved one to both types of homicide was 2%. Logistic regression analyses found that adolescents who reported being homicide survivors were significantly more likely to report depression, drug use, and alcohol abuse after controlling for demographic factors and other violence exposure.

Conclusions:  If the results from this study are generalizable to the US population, roughly 1 in 5 American adolescents may be impacted by homicide. Further, adolescents exposed to such a loss are at increased risk for mental health sequelae. Results suggest that greater attention needs to be paid to address the needs of these often underserved victims.

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