Rural Canadian youth exposed to physical violence : resilience, disruptive behaviour, depression, and PTSD symptoms
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Exposure to physical violence is an unfortunate reality for many Canadian youth (Statistics Canada, 2003), and is associated with numerous negative effects (U.S. Department of Justice, 2000). This study aims to assist in understanding resilience in rural Canadian youth exposed to physical violence by identifying how important certain protective factors are, together with physical violence exposure, in predicting disruptive behaviour, depression, and post-traumatic stress. The protective factors examined are: sense of mastery, sense of relatedness, and positive emotional reactivity. The risk factors examined are three modes of violence exposure: hearing about, witnessing, and being victim. The sample included 162 youth, ages 16 to 19. A demographic questionnaire and measures of personal protective factors, physical violence exposure, post-traumatic stress, depression, and disruptive behaviours was distributed in a school setting. Data was analyzed through correlations, standard multiple regressions, and stepwise multiple regressions. Participants were exposed to high rates of physical violence. Nearly all (99%) heard about, 73% witnessed, and 58% were victim to at least one act of violence. Disruptive behaviour, depression, and PTSD symptoms were positively correlated with all modes of physical violence exposure and negatively correlated with all protective factors. Hearing reports of violence predicted depression in the total sample. For males, hearing reports of violence predicted disruptive behaviour. In females, witnessing violence predicted disruptive behaviour and PTSD symptoms, and being victim to violence predicted PTSD symptoms. Positive emotional reactivity seems to be more important in protecting youth from developing psychological symptoms than sense of mastery and sense of relatedness. The ability to regulate one’s emotional reaction and recover when upset predicted disruptive behaviour, depression, and PTSD symptoms, whereas sense of mastery predicted depression and PTSD symptoms, and sense of relatedness only predicted disruptive behaviour. This study adds to the research on physical violence exposure, protective factors, and internalizing/externalizing problems. Few studies have explored these relationships in rural or Canadian samples. The results provide insight into the impact of hearing reports of violence and differences between males and females. Future research should take these variables into account when examining the effects of physical violence exposure on youth.
DegreeMaster of Education (M.Ed.)
DepartmentEducational Psychology and Special Education
ProgramSchool and Counselling Psychology
SupervisorMykota, David B.
CommitteeKelly, Ivan W.; Martin, Stephanie L.
Copyright DateApril 2012
Physical violence exposure