COMMUNITY VIOLENCE EXPOSURE AND CHILDREN'S EXTERNALIZING BEHAVIOR PROBLEMS: THE ROLE OF FAMILY MANAGEMENT STRATEGIES
Munger, Ashley Lauren
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The detrimental impacts of community violence exposure (CVE) for children's later behavior are well-established. In particular, children exposed to community violence exhibit more externalizing behavior problems (EBP). Although increased attention has been paid to the indirect impacts of CVE through family processes and parenting practices, relationships remain unclear. How parents manage children's experiences with the external world - family management (FM) - is a promising area of investigation. FM is divided into two types of strategies: promotive - fostering children's skills and opportunities - and preventative - minimizing children's exposure to danger. Promotive strategies include parental involvement with children at home, parental involvement in children's schools, and children's involvement in organized activities, whereas preventative strategies include parental monitoring and harsh discipline. Harsh discipline was conceptualized as strategy that may serve the function of family management but may also negatively impact children. The present study examined whether the relationships between CVE and FM strategies are influenced (moderated) by available resources and whether the CVE-EBP relationship is mediated by specific FM strategies. Proposed relationships were informed by the Family Adaptation and Adjustment Response Model. The study used data from 2,310 mothers unmarried at the birth of the target child in the Fragile Families and Child Wellbeing Study to test hypotheses drawn from theory and prior literature. CVE positively predicted FM strategies of parental involvement with children at home, parental involvement in children's schools, parental monitoring, and harsh discipline; however, none of the examined resources - income, social capital, or maternal self-efficacy - moderated these relationships. Findings suggest that, regardless of resources, mothers actively manage their children's experiences in the context of community violence. However, only harsh discipline mediated the relationship between CVE and EBP. This finding suggests a potential feedback loop from CVE to harsh parenting to EBP, which may then feed into the environment. As such, this may be a particularly salient area for intervention. CVE is a significant public health problem that has impacts for individuals, families, and communities. Better understanding of the extent and nature of these impacts is important for developing responsive programs and policies to bolster communities and improve the lives of families facing difficult circumstances.