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Lead Researcher:
Iveth Estrada Reyes, BA
(University of California, Los Angeles, ivether@g.ucla.edu)

Other Researchers:

Farzana Saleem, PhD (Stanford University, fsaleem1@stanford.edu)

Anna S. Lau, PhD (University of California, Los Angeles)

This project was presented at the Undergraduate Research Week conference and the UndocuBruins Symposium at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) in 2019.

Abstract

Latinx adolescents experience community violence (CV) at disproportionate rates (Rubens et al., 2018) in comparison to other ethnic-racial groups (e.g., White, Asian American). Of concern, CV is associated with numerous emotional problems (e.g., depressive symptoms, trauma symptoms) among adolescents. Fortunately, various factors such as positive school climate aspects (e.g., safety) have been identified in reducing the effects of CV on adolescents’ emotional well-being (Wang & Dego, 2015). Studies suggest school climate aspects can buffer the effects of CV for youth (Ozer & Weinstein, 2010); however, little research has examined these associations among Latinx adolescents. Therefore, this study will explore the associations between CV and emotional problems, and it will examine whether two aspects of school climate (i.e., safety and bonding) are protective against the effect of CV on Latinx adolescents' emotional problems. Participants comprised a community sample of Latinx adolescents (N=457; 39% female) attending an urban public-school district (grades 9th-12th). It is hypothesized that a positive association between CV and emotional problems will be found; it is expected that school climate (i.e., safety and bonding) will reduce the effect CV has on Latinx adolescents' emotional problems. 

If you'd like to view a poster presentation, click here.

If you'd like to view a PowerPoint presentation, click here.

If you'd like to read a paper connected to this project, click here.

Introduction

What inspired this project?

Studies show Latinx adolescents experience Community violence (CV) at disproportionate rates. (Rubens et al., 2018). And CV exposure has also been associated with various emotional problems (e.g., depressive symptoms, trauma symptoms).

Fortunately, aspects of positive school climate (e.g., safety) have been identified to buffer the effects of CV on adolescents’ emotional well-being. (Wang & Dego, 2015).

Considering Latinx adolescents experience CV at disproportionate rates (Rubens et al., 2018), it is important to examine potential protective factors for future intervention strategies in order to improve their mental health and future opportunities.

Current Study

This study explores the associations between CV and emotional problems, and it examines whether school climate, specifically if school safety and school bonding are protective against the effects of CV on Latinx adolescents' emotional problems.

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Research Questions

1.) How does community violence affect emotional problems of Latinx adolescents?

2a.) Does school bonding protect against the effect of community violence on emotional problems?

2b.) Does school safety protect against the effect of community violence on emotional problems?

Methods

This data are part of a larger study that was collected as part of a partnership between an urban Los Angeles high-school district and UCLA (Psychology department, under Anna S. Lau, PhD) to evaluate school climate.

  • Second Data Analysis

 

  • Participants: 457 Latinx Adolescents

    • ​Gender:

      • 176 (38.5%) Females 

      • 261 (57.1%) Males 

      • 20 (4.4%) Other

 

  • Grades: 9th-12th

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Measures

Community Violence:

“Community violence is exposure to intentional acts of interpersonal violence committed in public areas by individuals who are not intimately related to the victim” (e.g., gang or drug exposure, shootings in neighborhood, etc.) (National Child Traumatic Stress Network 2019)

Urban Stressful Life Events Scale, 5 Items

Answer choice/s: 0=no, 1 = yes

Sample Item: “During the last year, have you seen anyone beaten, shot or really hurt by someone?”

α: .574

Emotional Problems:

Self reported symptoms such as, somatic symptoms, feeling worried, unhappy, nervous in new situations, fears, etc.

Strengths and Difficulties Questionnaire, 5 Items

Answer choice/s: 0=not true, 1=somewhat true, 2=certainly true

Sample Item: “I am often unhappy, depressed or tearful.”

α: .69

School Bonding:

A school climate in which people respect, care, appreciate and trust each other; in addition, having a feeling of closeness and positivity to the school community.

Items the school adapted from school tools, 8 Items 
Answer choice/s: 1 = strongly disagree, 2 = disa
gree, 3 = agree, 4 = strongly agree 
Sample Item: “This school is warm and caring place.” 
α: .83

School Safety:

“When the school and school-related activities are safe from violence, bullying, harassment, and substance use.” (National Center on Safe Supportive Learning Environments 2019)

Items the school adapted from school tools, 5 Items 
Answer choice/s: 1 = strongly disagree, 2 = disagree, 3 = agree, 4 = strongly agree 
Sample Item: “I feel safe at school.” 
α: .24

Analytical Strategy

  • Question 1: Regression was used to examine the direct effects of CV on emotional problems

  • Question 2a & 2b: Hierarchical linear regression was used to examine school safety and bonding were moderators of the association between adolescent reported CV and emotional problems

    • Two-way interactions were examined

    • Simple slopes were calculated at one standard deviation above and below the mean of the moderator (Aiken & West, 1991)

Findings

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2. School Bonding: The more CV the less (-) school bonding

3. School Safety: The more CV the more (+)school safety

4. Emotional Problems: The more CV the more (+) emotional problems

Summary

Q1

Q: How does CV affect emotional problems of Latinx adolescents?
A: CV was positively associated with emotional problems.

Q2a

Q: Does school bonding protect against the effect of CV on emotional problems?
A: The regression of emotional problems CV and school bonding did not yield a significant two-way interaction. However, there was a statistically significant positive association between CV and emotional problems and there was also a negative association between school bonding and emotional problems.

Q: Does school safety protect against the effect of CV on emotional problems?
A: Statistically significant interaction between CV and school safety. Simple slopes indicated that CV was positively associated with emotional problems for adolescents who reported low school safety, but CV was not associated with emotional problems for youth that reported high school safety.

Q2b

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Conclusions & Implications

Results appear to be consistent with literature among Latinx adolescents; the higher reports of CV, the more emotional problems they reported (Epstein-Ngo, Maurizi, Bregman, & Ceballo 2013)

Considering the positive association between CV and emotional problems, adolescents who report exposure of CV may be less open to bonding due to emotional inhibitions.

Findings are consistent with a recent study demonstrating that school safety can reduce the effects of CV exposure on Latinx adolescents’ emotional problems. (Gaias et al., 2019).

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Photograph was taken during poster presentation day at the Undergraduate Research Conference at UCLA in 2019

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