Risk or resource

Does school climate moderate the influence of community violence on children’s social-emotional development in the Democratic Republic of Congo?

Leighann Starkey, J. Lawrence Aber, Angela Crossman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Abstract

Exposure to community violence is thought to create risk for the social and emotional development of children, including those children living in low-income, conflict-affected countries. In the absence of other types of community resources, schools may be one of the few community resources that can help buffer children from the negative effects of community violence exposure. We sampled 8,300 students ranging in age from 6–18 years in 123 schools from the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo to examine whether and how two distinct dimensions of positive school climate can protect two key features of children's social-emotional development in the presence of community violence. Multi-level models tested the hypothesis that students’ perceptions of a positive school climate moderated the relation between community violence and self-reported mental health problems and peer victimization. Findings support the hypothesis. Specifically, a positive school climate protected against mental health problems and peer victimization in the presence of high community violence. Students who experienced high community violence and a negative school climate generally demonstrated the worst development. We find complex interactions between the dimensions of school climate and exposure to violence on student social-emotional development that highlight the salience of children's contexts for developmental studies in low-income countries. We use dynamic developmental systems theory and differential impact to discuss the dual potential of schools as a buffer against the effects of violence or as a source of compounded risk.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere12845
JournalDevelopmental science
DOIs
StatePublished - Jan 1 2019

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Democratic Republic of the Congo
Climate
Violence
Students
Crime Victims
Mental Health
Buffers
Community-Institutional Relations
Systems Theory
Child Development

Keywords

  • community violence
  • Democratic Republic of Congo
  • low-income countries
  • school climate
  • social-emotional

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Cognitive Neuroscience

Cite this

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title = "Risk or resource: Does school climate moderate the influence of community violence on children’s social-emotional development in the Democratic Republic of Congo?",
abstract = "Exposure to community violence is thought to create risk for the social and emotional development of children, including those children living in low-income, conflict-affected countries. In the absence of other types of community resources, schools may be one of the few community resources that can help buffer children from the negative effects of community violence exposure. We sampled 8,300 students ranging in age from 6–18 years in 123 schools from the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo to examine whether and how two distinct dimensions of positive school climate can protect two key features of children's social-emotional development in the presence of community violence. Multi-level models tested the hypothesis that students’ perceptions of a positive school climate moderated the relation between community violence and self-reported mental health problems and peer victimization. Findings support the hypothesis. Specifically, a positive school climate protected against mental health problems and peer victimization in the presence of high community violence. Students who experienced high community violence and a negative school climate generally demonstrated the worst development. We find complex interactions between the dimensions of school climate and exposure to violence on student social-emotional development that highlight the salience of children's contexts for developmental studies in low-income countries. We use dynamic developmental systems theory and differential impact to discuss the dual potential of schools as a buffer against the effects of violence or as a source of compounded risk.",
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