The effect of local violence on children's attention and impulse control

Patrick T. Sharkey, Nicole Tirado-Strayer, Andrew V. Papachristos, C. Cybele Raver

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Objectives: We examined whether the burden of violence in a child's community environment alters the child's behavior and functioning in the classroom setting. Methods: To identify the effects of local violence, we exploited variation in the timing of local homicides, based on data from the Chicago Police Department, relative to the timing of interview assessments conducted as part of a randomized controlled trial conducted with preschoolers in Head Start programs from 2004-2006, the Chicago School Readiness Project. We compared children's scores when exposed to recent local violence with scores when no recent violence had occurred to identify causal effects. Results: When children were assessed within a week of a homicide that occurred near their home, they exhibited lower levels of attention and impulse control and lower preacademic skills. The analysis showed strong positive effects of local violence on parental distress, providing suggestive evidence that parental responses may be a likely pathway by which local violence affects young children. Conclusions: Exposure to homicide generates acute psychological distress among caregivers and impairs children's self-regulatory behavior and cognitive functioning.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2287-2293
Number of pages7
JournalAmerican journal of public health
Volume102
Issue number12
DOIs
StatePublished - Dec 2012

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health

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