We are family: Adult support reduces youths' risk of violence exposure

April 26, 2015

SAN DIEGO - Adults can have a bigger influence on youths growing up in poor, violent neighborhoods than they may realize, according to a study to be presented Sunday, April 26 at the Pediatric Academic Societies (PAS) annual meeting in San Diego.

Researchers found that males living in Philadelphia who identified supportive relationships with parents and other adult family members were significantly less likely to report that they were involved in violence or had witnessed violence.

"This is good news. In neighborhoods with high levels of community violence and few safe spaces to spend time, having supportive adult connections is protective against violence exposure," said lead researcher Alison Culyba, MD MPH, clinical fellow in the Craig-Dalsimer Division of Adolescent Medicine at The Children's Hospital of Philadelphia.

Dr. Culyba and her colleagues interviewed 283 males ages 10-24 years, 98 percent of whom were African-American. They asked youths about their adult and peer connections, involvement in violence and witnessing violence, school performance, and substance use. Youths also were asked to characterize the nature of relationships with family members whom they viewed as having an important role in their lives. Relationships were divided into three categories: supportive, unsupportive and mixed supportive/unsupportive.

Supportive relationships with adult family members were common among youths, with nearly 70 percent saying they had at least one supportive adult in their lives, including mothers (60 percent), fathers (27 percent) and maternal grandmothers (15 percent).

One-third of youths reported a high violence involvement, 30 percent reported high violence witnessing and 17 percent reported both.

Participants who reported having at least one supportive adult in their life were significantly less likely to be involved in or to witness violence.

"These findings are consistent with other research that shows supportive adult connections are protective in so many ways, including increasing school performance, decreasing substance use, delaying first sexual encounter and contributing to mental health. This is an exciting study because it clearly places violence on this list," said Dr. Culyba, a PhD student in epidemiology at the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania. "Next steps include thinking about how society can best prepare adults for this critical role so we can work together to safeguard youth."

Dr. Culyba will present "Examining the Role of Supportive Adults in Violence Exposure Among Urban Male Youth" from 4:45-5 p.m. PT Sunday, April 26. To view the study abstract, go to http://www.abstracts2view.com/pas/view.php?nu=PAS15L1_2755.6
This study was supported by a Ruth L. Kirschstein National Research Service Award from the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD) (grant T32HD043021-10), the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (grant R01AA014944) and the NICHD (grant K02AA017974).

The Pediatric Academic Societies (PAS) are four individual pediatric organizations that co-sponsor the PAS Annual Meeting - the American Pediatric Society, the Society for Pediatric Research, the Academic Pediatric Association, and the American Academy of Pediatrics. Members of these organizations are pediatricians and other health care providers who are practicing in the research, academic and clinical arenas. The four sponsoring organizations are leaders in the advancement of pediatric research and child advocacy within pediatrics, and all share a common mission of fostering the health and well-being of children worldwide. For more information, visit http://www.pas-meeting.org. Follow news of the PAS meeting on Twitter @PASmeeting and Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/pages/Pediatric-Academic-Societies-Annual-Meeting/134020174135.

American Academy of Pediatrics

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