Children’s Cognitive Performance and Selective Attention Following Recent Community Violence

Dana Charles McCoy, C. Cybele Raver, Patrick Sharkey

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Research has shown robust relationships between community violence and psychopathology, yet relatively little is known about the ways in which community violence may affect cognitive performance and attention. The present study estimates the effects of police-reported community violence on 359 urban children’s performance on a computerized neuropsychological task using a quasi-experimental fixed-effects design. Living in close proximity to a recent violent crime predicted faster but marginally less accurate task performance for the full sample, evolutionarily adaptive patterns of “vigilant” attention (i.e., less attention toward positive stimuli, more attention toward negative stimuli) for children reporting low trait anxiety, and potentially maladaptive patterns of “avoidant” attention for highly anxious children. These results suggest that community violence can directly affect children’s cognitive performance while also having different (and potentially orthogonal) impacts on attention deployment depending on children’s levels of biobehavioral risk. Implications for mental health and sociological research are discussed.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)19-36
Number of pages18
JournalJournal of health and social behavior
Issue number1
StatePublished - Mar 16 2015


  • children
  • cognition
  • mental health
  • neighborhoods
  • violence

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Psychology
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health


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