According to a recent study led by Gregory M. Zimmerman of the School of Criminology and Criminal Justice at Northeastern University in Massachusetts, violence does indeed discriminate. Zimmerman was prompted to gauge exposure to violence among the black and Hispanic populations, compared to the levels of exposure to violence among white people. He was interested in the compounding negative effect that violence and its risk factors have on youth. It has been well established that adolescents and young adults who are raised in socioeconomically disadvantaged communities are more likely to be exposed to violence than their more economically privileged peers. Forms of violence include assault, bullying, sexual assault, and homicide. This chronic violence can lead to various forms of psychological problems for these youths, including substance misuse, risky sexual behavior, depression, anxiety, post-traumatic stress, sleep problems, developmental delays, and aggressive or violent behavior. In addition, these disadvantaged youths are less likely to have the means for or access to mental health or physical health services. Therefore, it is imperative that accurate risk ratios be compiled in order to prompt immediate attention to this negative cycle of violence.
Zimmerman assessed over 2,300 young adults from 80 urban neighborhoods and found that the compared to white participants, Hispanic youth had a 74% higher chance of being exposed to violence and black participants had 112% increased risk of exposure to violence. These numbers are startlingly high, but are not surprising to Zimmerman. He hopes that these results underscore the need for targeted programs designed to address the numerous social and mental health needs of children being raised in poverty, and especially minority children at risk for negative developmental outcomes as a result of witnessing violent acts. More specifically, Zimmerman believes that increasing services directed toward meeting the needs of at-risk youth in disadvantaged communities can prevent the outcomes outlined here. Additionally, advancing research in this area can also reveal other factors that impact these highly disproportionate risk rates. “In turn,” added Zimmerman, “Understanding the ways in which social conditions and exposure to violence co-vary could aid in the design of individual- and community-specific interventions that have the highest potential for success.”
Zimmerman, Gregory M., and Steven F. Messner. Individual, family background, and contextual explanations of racial and ethnic disparities in youths’ exposure to violence. American Journal of Public Health 103.3 (2013): 435-42. Print.
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