Community violence exposure and post-traumatic stress reactions among Gambian youth: the moderating role of positive school climate.Soc Psychiatry Psychiatr Epidemiol. 2011 Jan; 46(1):59-67.SP
Community violence exposure among youth can lead to various negative outcomes, including post-traumatic stress symptoms. Research in the Western world indicates that a number of social support factors may moderate the relation between violence exposure and internalizing symptoms. Little research has been carried out in non-Western countries. This study aimed to fill this gap by exploring the relations among violence exposure, parental warmth, positive school climate, and post-traumatic stress reactions among youth in The Republic of The Gambia, Africa.
A school-based survey of youth behaviors, feelings, attitudes, and perceptions was administered to 653 students at senior secondary schools in four Gambian communities.
Students reported high levels of exposure to violence. Over half of students reported witnessing someone threatened with serious physical harm, beaten up or mugged, attacked or stabbed with a knife/piece of glass, or seriously wounded in an incident of violence. Nearly half of students reported being beaten up or mugged during the past year, and nearly a quarter reported being threatened with serious physical harm. There were no sex differences in levels of exposure. Traumatic stress symptoms were common, especially among females. Both violence witnessing and violent victimization significantly predicted post-traumatic stress symptoms, and positive school climate moderated the relationship. Among youth victimized by violence, positive school climate was most strongly correlated with lower levels of post-traumatic stress at low levels of exposure. Among youth who had witnessed violence, positive school climate was most strongly correlated with lower levels of post-traumatic stress at high levels of exposure.
Community-based programs that bring together parents, schools, and youth may play an important role in combating the negative effects of some types of violence exposure among Gambian youth. Youth experiencing high levels of violent victimization represent a sample of particular concern and merit special research and clinical attention.