American Sociological Association

Children’s Cognitive Performance and Selective Attention Following Recent Community Violence

Research has shown robust relationships between community violence and psychopathology, yet relatively little is known about the ways in which community violence may affect cognitive performance and attention. The present study estimates the effects of police-reported community violence on 359 urban children’s performance on a computerized neuropsychological task using a quasi-experimental fixed-effects design. Living in close proximity to a recent violent crime predicted faster but marginally less accurate task performance for the full sample, evolutionarily adaptive patterns of “vigilant” attention (i.e., less attention toward positive stimuli, more attention toward negative stimuli) for children reporting low trait anxiety, and potentially maladaptive patterns of “avoidant” attention for highly anxious children. These results suggest that community violence can directly affect children’s cognitive performance while also having different (and potentially orthogonal) impacts on attention deployment depending on children’s levels of biobehavioral risk. Implications for mental health and sociological research are discussed.

Authors

Dana Charles McCoy, C. Cybele Raver, and Patrick Sharkey

Volume

56

Issue

1

Starting Page

19

Ending Page

36