Poster: The Impact of Violence in Adolescent Development

The Impact of Violence in Adolescent Development

Mary Trolia and Konrad Biedron

Community violence hinders the healthy development of identities in adolescents in severe ways, which consequently disrupts the arrest of positive social development. The exposure to violence has an array of short-term and long-term developmental problems for adolescence (Gorman-Smith, 2004).  Erickson (1959) emphasizes the importance of searching for a cohesive sense of self, through which an integration of social expectations and ideologies occur and guide the young individual to fulfillment of life’s tasks. In communities stricken by violence, survival becomes a basic need for fulfillment. Therefore, adolescents are not granted the privilege of experiencing the world introspectively, but instead must protect the self from continuously threatening situations. Schiavone (2009) reports that adolescents living in violent communities must face the world alone, and therefore, do not experience alternative views of themselves in others. Adolescents who are exposed to repeated violence could in turn develop maladaptive coping strategies in order to survive. This could be manifested by early sexual engagement among girls in marginalized communities (Wilson, Donenberg, & Emerson, 2014), as well as limited negotiating capacities, strained and destructive relationships, and aggression. These coping strategies become normalized in the community and seemingly become necessary ways of asserting one’s power and sense of self (McAra & McVie, 2016). This study will examine how community violence inhibits cohesive self-identities to develop in adolescents, as well as what preventative and tertiary measures can be utilized to provide a more rounded identity development. Possible measures include prevention programs, parenting skill and family relationship approaches, policy and structural approaches, and opportunities for action by the community.