Examining the Impact of Community Violence Through Meaning Making

Kathrine Lizzette Hernandez, Fordham University


The present study examined high school adolescents’ exposure to community violence and social-emotional outcomes, including willingness to use aggression, beliefs about the world and self, appraisal of traumatic situations, and distress. Exposure to community violence has been conceptualized as a traumatic event that increases aggressive behavior and that negatively impacts academic achievement and emotional well-being in adolescents (Schwab-Stone et al., 1995). The impact that a traumatic event has on an individual depends on their appraisal of the situation and how they make meaning of the situation (Janoff-Bulman, 1992). Little is known about how adolescents make meaning out of violent events in their community. One hundred and five high school students were recruited to complete a series of surveys evaluating their prior exposure to violent community events, their beliefs about the world and self, and their willingness to use aggression. Participants also listened to a segment of a real CBS2 news report about an act of community violence and answered questions about how the report impacted their views on the world and emotional well-being. Results indicated that exposure to community violence significantly impacted participants’ beliefs and willingness to use aggression. Appraisal of the news report as violating one’s beliefs predicted subsequent distress. Findings also revealed gender differences in beliefs, willingness to use aggression, distress, and appraisal.

Subject Area

Developmental psychology|Clinical psychology

Recommended Citation

Hernandez, Kathrine Lizzette, "Examining the Impact of Community Violence Through Meaning Making" (2022). ETD Collection for Fordham University. AAI28868533.