Author ORCID Identifier

Defense Date


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Science



First Advisor

Dr. Albert Farrell

Second Advisor

Dr. Wendy Kliewer

Third Advisor

Dr. Shelby McDonald


Exposure to community violence is prevalent among urban youth residing in neighborhoods with high rates of crime and violence. Although there is strong evidence suggesting that community violence exposure is associated with negative consequences on youth development, there are inconsistencies in theories and evidence regarding the nature of these associations. Methodological limitations of dimensional approaches to conceptualizing exposure, including the assumption that adolescents are similar in their frequency and patterns of exposure, likely contribute to the inconsistencies in findings of associations. Recently, person-centered methods have been used to elucidate associations between community violence exposure and consequences on adolescent development. However, studies have not compared variable-centered and person-centered approaches and their associations with adolescent aggression and anxiety. The main goal of this study was to test competing models of dimensions of community violence exposure and compare them to person-centered models of exposure. Dimensional analyses indicated that a hybrid model of hypothesized models, with factors representing witnessing less severe violence, witnessing severe violence, and victimization, best represented adolescents’ exposure to community violence. Identified factors or constructs of exposure differed in their associations with physical aggression and anxiety. In contrast, person-centered analyses revealed five subgroups of adolescents with distinct patterns of community violence exposure that differed in their levels of physical aggression and symptoms of anxiety. Overall, results suggest that victimization by community violence was associated with physical aggression and symptoms of anxiety. Witnessing community violence was only uniquely associated with physical aggression. Victimization by community violence and witnessing community violence might impact adolescent development through different mechanisms. Future research should include investigating longitudinal associations between constructs of exposure, and different patterns of exposure to understand impact on development. Further research examining different mechanisms that might underly the associations between witnessing and aggression and anxiety, and victimization and aggression and anxiety, is necessary to refine our understanding of exposure and its impact on youth development.


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