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Relationship Proximity to Victims of Witnessed Community Violence: Associations With Adolescent Internalizing and Externalizing Behaviors


  • This research was supported by grants from the National Institute of Mental Health (MH078995: PI Lambert; K01 MH68619: PI Boyd; MH057005: PI Ialongo) and the National Institute on Drug Abuse (DA011796: PI Ialongo). The authors thank the youth, parents, and teachers who participated in this research.

concerning this article should be addressed to Sharon Lambert, Department of Psychology, George Washington University, Washington, DC 20052. Electronic mail may be sent to


Witnessing community violence has been linked with several adverse outcomes for adolescents, including emotional and behavioral problems. Among youth who have witnessed community violence, proximity to the victim of community violence is one factor that may determine, in part, the nature of adolescents’ responses to community violence exposure. The present study examines whether relationship proximity to the victim of community violence is associated with internalizing and externalizing behaviors among a sample of urban and predominantly African American adolescents (N = 501) who have witnessed community violence. In 10th grade, participants reported whether they had witnessed 10 community violence events during the past year, and, if so, whether the victim of the violence was a family member, close friend, acquaintance, or stranger. Witnessed community violence against a family member or close friend was associated with depressive symptoms, and witnessed community violence against known individuals was associated with anxiety symptoms. Witnessing community violence against familiar persons and strangers was linked with aggressive behavior. Gender differences in these associations and implications for assessment and intervention with community violence-exposed youth are discussed.

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