Defense Date


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Science



First Advisor

Dr. Wendy L. Kliewer


Research consistently has revealed the damaging consequences of children's repeated exposure to community violence and Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is the most commonly cited internalizing disorder associated with such exposure. However, not all children who are exposed to community violence develop PTSD symptoms; thus, it is important to identify factors that contribute to this deleterious relationship. The purpose of the present study was to examine the relation of community violence exposure (CVE)and PTSD in a sample of urban adolescents. Additionally, the study assessed whether a maternal history of alcohol or drug abuse would exacerbate the association of CVE andPTSD symptoms in youth. Furthermore, deficient parenting and poorer psychological functioning of the substance-abusing mother was examined as a possible explanation of the relation of maternal substance abuse to community violence exposure and PTSD. Participants included 309 biological mothers and their 5th or 8th grade children (N = 309dyads) who were recruited from high-violence neighborhoods in Richmond, Virginia. Youth and their maternal caregivers completed separate home interviews. Results revealed that greater violence exposure (witnessing violence and direct victimization)was associated with higher levels of PTSD symptoms in youth. Additionally, maternalalcohol abuse history exacerbated the relation between witnessed violence and PTSD symptoms. At low levels of witnessed violence, mother's alcohol use type did not influence PTSD symptoms; however, as levels of witnessed violence increase, youthwhose mothers were classified as having a positive alcohol abuse history were more likely to report higher levels of PTSD symptoms. Furthermore, parental knowledge was an independent predictor of PTSD symptoms in each of the models. Lower levels of parental knowledge were associated with higher levels of youth-reported PTSD symptoms. Overall, the study findings support the need to examine moderating and mediating factors of the relation between CVE and PTSD among youth.


© The Author

Is Part Of

VCU University Archives

Is Part Of

VCU Theses and Dissertations

Date of Submission

June 2008

Included in

Psychology Commons