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Am J Orthopsychiatry. 2011 Jan;81(1):51-60. doi: 10.1111/j.1939-0025.2010.01071.x.

Cognitive, affective, and behavioral responses to witnessed versus experienced violence.

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  • 1Virginia Commonwealth University, Richmond, VA 23284-2018, USA.


Cognitive, affective, and behavioral responses to experiencing or witnessing violence were examined in a sample of 263 inner-city youth (94% African American, 49% male, M(age) = 12.06, SD = 1.61, 52% 5th graders, 48% 8th graders). The youth participated in Wave 1 of a larger, longitudinal study for which they completed the Social Competence Interview (SCI; Ewart, Jorgensen, Suchday, Chen, & Matthews, 2002), a process whereby the youth relive witnessing or experiencing a recent act of violence. The interview was audiotaped and coded for emotional responses, goals, and coping behaviors. Adolescents who had been victimized were angry; expressed concerns about being negatively evaluated by self and others; expressed revenge goals; and coped by using primary engagement, social support, and aggressive strategies. Adolescents who had witnessed violence were fearful, concerned about others being harmed and losing relationships, focused on survival, and coped by using avoidant strategies. Responses were similar across gender. Where interactions existed, differences between responses to victimization and witnessing violence were more pronounced among middle, versus early, adolescents. These results suggest that more attention should be given to coping processes associated with the different types of violence youth encounter.

© 2011 American Orthopsychiatric Association.

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