Date of Degree

6-2016

Document Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Ph.D.

Program

Psychology

Advisor(s)

Angela Crossman

Committee Members

J. Lawrence Aber

Maureen Crossman

Lou Schlesinger

Edward Seidman

Peter Halpin

Subject Categories

Developmental Psychology

Keywords

Community violence, school climate, Democratic Republic of Congo, mental health, victimization

Abstract

Despite abundant information on negative child outcomes related to school and community violence in Western nations, the impact of such violence is less well studied in low-income countries. Through secondary analysis of data from an impact evaluation of a school-based intervention in the Eastern Democratic Republic of Congo, this study uses verbally administered questionnaires with students and teachers to examine the association between children's exposure to community violence and their social-emotional well-being, specifically concerning mental health problems and victimization by peers. In addition, this paper explores how this relationship between exposure to community violence and social-emotional well-being may be modified by perceived school climate and gender. It is predicted that exposure to community violence will be associated with poorer student subjective well-being, but student perceptions of a safe, supportive, and predictable/cooperative school climate will act as a buffer against negative effects of community violence exposure. It is further hypothesized that gender will moderate both the experience of community violence exposure and perceived school climate, such that girls will be exposed to more community violence and perceive a less positive school climate, thus reporting the least social-emotional well-being. The findings do suggest that a perceived cooperative and predictable school climate buffers the relationship between exposure to community violence and mental health problems, such that students who experience high violence and perceive a highly cooperative and predictable school environment report fewer mental health problems compared to students who experience high violence but perceive the school climate to be less cooperative and predictable. However, student perceptions of highly safe and supportive schools fail to buffer against risks associated with high community violence exposure. Gender was not directly associated with exposure to community violence, nor did it moderate the relation between community violence exposure and school climate, but it did significantly interact with community violence exposure to predict mental health problems, such that girls exposed to high community violence reported more mental health problems than boys.

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