American Sociological Association

Community Disorder, Victimization Exposure, and Mental Health in a National Sample of Youth

This study considers whether elevated distress among youth living in more disordered neighborhoods can be explained by personal exposure to violence and victimization, level of non-victimization adversity, and family support. Analyses were based on a sample of 2,039 youth ages 10 to 17 who participated in the National Survey of Children’s Exposure to Violence, a national telephone survey conducted in 2008. Using structural equation modeling, we find no direct effects of community disorder on distress, once the significant mediating effects of victimization, family support, and adversity are taken into account. Using a comprehensive measure of victimization covering several domains of experiences, we show that past-year exposure to child maltreatment, sexual victimization, peer assault and bullying, and property crime each significantly mediate the community disorder–distress association. A measure of the total number of victimization types to which youth were exposed (i.e., level of “poly-victimization”) had the strongest mediating effect.


Heather A. Turner, Anne Shattuck, Sherry Hamby, and David Finkelhor





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