“Bullets Have no Names”: A Qualitative Exploration of Community Trauma Among Black and Latinx Youth

Abstract

Repeated exposure to violent crime and drug use among youth of color can have negative health and behavioral outcomes. Using a community trauma theoretical framework, this qualitative study examines the lived experiences of Black and Latinx youth living in an under-resourced community with high levels of violent crime. Data were collected through eleven focus groups comprising of (N = 59) youth. Common themes arose including daily occurrences of witnessing gun violence, feelings of hopelessness, and lack of opportunities among youth. Implications highlight the importance of youth serving community-based organizations to nurture resilience and community healing within trauma-exposed neighborhoods.

Highlights

  • Urban Black and Latinx youth are disproportionately exposed to community violence.

  • There is limited qualitative research using a community-trauma framework.

  • Trauma-informed care and community-based organizations for youth is crucial.

This is a preview of subscription content, log in to check access.

References

  1. Advocates for Children of NJ (2015). New Jersey Kids Count Data. Retrieved from: https://acnj.org/kids-count/.

  2. Agee, J. (2009). Developing qualitative research questions: a reflective process. International Journal of Qualitative Studies in Education, 22(4), 431–447.

    Google Scholar 

  3. Andrews III, A. R., Jobe-Shields, L., López, C. M., Metzger, I. W., de Arellano, M. A., Saunders, B., & Kilpatrick, D. G. (2015). Polyvictimization, income, and ethnic differences in trauma-related mental health during adolescence. Social Psychiatry and Psychiatric Epidemiology, 50(8), 1223–1234.

    Google Scholar 

  4. Anguelovski, I. (2013). From environmental trauma to safe haven: place attachment and place remaking in three marginalized neighborhoods of Barcelona, Boston, and Havana. City & Community, 12(3), 211–237.

    Google Scholar 

  5. Antunes, M. J. L., & Ahlin, E. M. (2017). Youth exposure to violence in the community: towards a theoretical framework for explaining risk and protective factors. Aggression and Violent Behavior, 34, 166–177.

    Google Scholar 

  6. Bhavnani, R., Donnay, K., Miodownik, D., Mor, M., & Helbing, D. (2014). Group segregation and urban violence. American Journal of Political Science, 58, 226–245.

    Google Scholar 

  7. Biello, K. B., Ickovics, J., Niccolai, L., Lin, H., & Kershaw, T. (2013). Racial differences in age at first sexual intercourse: residential racial segregation and the black-white disparity among US adolescents. Public Health Reports, 128(2_suppl1), 23–32.

    PubMed  PubMed Central  Google Scholar 

  8. Blake, J. J., Butler, B. R., Lewis, C. W., & Darensbourg, A. (2011). Unmasking the inequitable discipline experiences of urban Black girls: Implications for urban educational stakeholders. The Urban Review, 43(1), 90–106.

    Google Scholar 

  9. Borofsky, L. A., Kellerman, I., Baucom, B., Oliver, P. H., & Margolin, G. (2013). Community violence exposure and adolescents’ school engagement and academic achievement over time. Psychology of Violence, 3(4), 381.

    PubMed  PubMed Central  Google Scholar 

  10. Boyatzis, R. E. (1998). Transforming Qualitative Information: thematic analysis and code development. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.

  11. Brondolo, E., Libretti, M., Rivera, L., & Walsemann, K. M. (2012). Racism and social capital: the implications for social and physical well‐being. Journal of Social Issues, 68(2), 358–384.

    Google Scholar 

  12. Butcher, F., Galanek, J. D., Kretschmar, J. M., & Flannery, D. J. (2015). The impact of neighborhood disorganization on neighborhood exposure to violence, trauma symptoms, and social relationships among at-risk youth. Social Science & Medicine, 146, 300–306.

    Google Scholar 

  13. Chen, P., Voisin, D. R., & Jacobson, K. C. (2016). Community violence exposure and adolescent delinquency: examining a spectrum of promotive factors. Youth & Society, 48(1), 33–57.

    Google Scholar 

  14. Clonan-Roy, K., Jacobs, C. E., & Nakkula, M. J. (2016). Towards a model of positive youth development specific to girls of color: Perspectives on development, resilience, and empowerment. Gender Issues, 33(2), 96–121.

    Google Scholar 

  15. Cooley-Strickland, M., Quille, T. J., Griffin, R. S., Stuart, E. A., Bradshaw, C. P., & Furr- Holden, D. (2009). Community violence and youth: affect, behavior, substance use, and academics. Clinical Child and Family Psychology Review, 12(2), 127–156. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10567-009-0051-6.

    Article  PubMed  PubMed Central  Google Scholar 

  16. Cunradi, C. B., Mair, C., Ponicki, W., & Remer, L. (2011). Alcohol outlets, neighborhood characteristics, and intimate partner violence: ecological analysis of a California city. Journal of Urban Health, 88(2), 191–200.

    PubMed  PubMed Central  Google Scholar 

  17. Daly, B., Buchanan, C., Dasch, K., Eichen, D., & Lenhart, C. (2010). Promoting school connectedness among urban youth of color: Reducing risk factors while promoting protective factors. The Prevention Researcher, 17(3), 18–20.

    Google Scholar 

  18. Deutsch, A., Crockett, L., Wolff, J., & Russell, S. (2012). Parent and peer pathways to adolescent delinquency: variations by ethnicity and neighborhood context. Journal of Youth & Adolescence, 41(8), 1078–1094. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10964-012-9754.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  19. Drummond, H., Bolland, J. M., & Ann Harris, W. (2011). Becoming violent: evaluating the mediating effect of hopelessness on the code of the street thesis. Deviant Behavior, 32(3), 191–223.

    Google Scholar 

  20. Espelage, D. L. (2014). Ecological Theory: Preventing Youth Bullying, Aggression, and Victimization. Theory Into Practice, 53(4), 257–264.

    Google Scholar 

  21. Federal Bureau of Investigations. (2016). Crime in the United States. Retrieved from: https://ucr.fbi.gov/crime-in-the-u.s/2016/crime-in-the-u.s.-2016.

  22. Fergus, S., & Zimmerman, M. A. (2005). Adolescent resilience: A framework for understanding healthy development in the face of risk. Annu. Rev. Public Health, 26, 399–419.

    PubMed  Google Scholar 

  23. Finkelhor, D., Turner, H. A., Shattuck, A., & Hamby, S. L. (2013). Violence, crime, and abuse exposure in a national sample of children and youth: An update. JAMA Pediatrics, 167(7), 614–621.

    PubMed  Google Scholar 

  24. Floyd, L. J., & Brown, Q. (2013). Attitudes toward and sexual partnerships with drug dealers among young adult African American females in socially disorganized communities. Journal of Drug Issues, 43(2), 154–163.

    PubMed  Google Scholar 

  25. Gaylord-Harden, N. K., Cunningham, J. A., & Zelencik, B. (2011). Effects of exposure to community violence on internalizing symptoms: does desensitization to violence occur in African American youth? Journal of Abnormal Child Psychology, 39(5), 711–719.

    PubMed  Google Scholar 

  26. Harding, D. J. (2009). Violence, older peers, and the socialization of adolescent boys in disadvantaged neighborhoods. American Sociological Review, 74(3), 445–464.

    PubMed  PubMed Central  Google Scholar 

  27. Hawkins, J. D., Oesterle, S., Brown, E. C., Monahan, K. C., Abbott, R. D., Arthur, M. W., & Catalano, R. F. (2012). Sustained decreases in risk exposure and youth problem behaviors after installation of the Communities that Care prevention system in a randomized trial. Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine, 166, 141–148.

    Google Scholar 

  28. Henneberger, A. K., Durkee, M. I., Truong, N., Atkins, A., & Tolan, P. H. (2013). The longitudinal relationship between peer violence and popularity and delinquency in adolescent boys: Examining effects by family functioning. Journal of Youth and Adolescence, 42(11), 1651–1660.

    PubMed  Google Scholar 

  29. Jones, J. M. (2007). Exposure to chronic community violence: resilience in African American children. The Journal of Black Psychology, 33(2), 125–149. https://doi.org/10.1177/0095798407299511.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  30. Kevern, J., & Webb, C. (2001). Focus groups as a tool for critical social research in nurse education. Nurse Education Today, 21, 323–333. https://doi.org/10.1054/nedt.2001.0563.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  31. Lardier, D. T., Reid, R. J., Yu, D., & Garcia-Reid, P. (2019). A spatial analysis of alcohol outlet density and abandoned properties on violent crime in Paterson New Jersey. Journal of Community Health, 45, 534–541.

    Google Scholar 

  32. Lee, E., Larkin, H., & Esaki, N. (2017). Exposure to community violence as a new adverse childhood experience category: promising results and future considerations. Families in Society, 98, 69–78.

    Google Scholar 

  33. Leventhal, T., & Brooks-Gunn, J. (2000). The neighborhoods they live in: the effects of neighborhood residence on child and adolescent outcomes. Psychological Bulletin, 126(2), 309.

    PubMed  Google Scholar 

  34. Lewin, A., Horn, I. B., Valentine, D., Sanders-Phillips, K., & Joseph, J. G. (2010). How does violence exposure affect the psychological health and parenting of young African American mothers? Social Science & Medicine, 70(4), 526–533. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.socscimed.2009.10.048.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  35. Lincoln, Y. S., & Guba, E. (1985). Naturalistic inquiry. Beverly Hills, CA: Sage.

    Google Scholar 

  36. Margolin, G., & Gordis, E. B. (2000). The effects of family and community violence on children. Annual Review of Psychology, 51, 445–479.

    PubMed  Google Scholar 

  37. Margolin, G., Vickerman, K., Ramos, M., Serrano, S., Gordis, E., Iturralde, E., & Spies, L. (2009). Youth exposed to violence: stability, co-occurrence, and context. Clinical Child & Family Psychology Review, 12, 39–54. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10567-009-0040-9.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  38. McGarrell, E. F., Corsaro, N., Melde, C., Hipple, N. K., Bynum, T., & Cobbina, J. (2013). Attempting to reduce firearms violence through a Comprehensive Anti-Gang Initiative (CAGI): an evaluation of process and impact. Journal of Criminal Justice, 41, 33–43.

    Google Scholar 

  39. Morselli, D. (2017). Contextual determinants of hopelessness: investigating socioeconomic factors and emotional climates. Social Indicators Research, 133, 373–393.

    Google Scholar 

  40. Morton, C. M., Simmel, C., & Peterson, N. A. (2014). Neighborhood alcohol outlet density and rates of child abuse and neglect: moderating effects of access to substance abuse services. Child Abuse & Neglect, 38(5), 952–961. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.chiabu.2014.01.002.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  41. Mrug, S., Madan, A., & Windle, M. (2016). Emotional desensitization to violence contributes to adolescents’ violent behavior. Journal of Abnormal Child Psychology, 44(1), 75–86. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10802-015-9986-x.

    Article  PubMed  PubMed Central  Google Scholar 

  42. Ng-Mak, D. S., Salzinger, S., Feldman, R., & Stueve, A. (2002). Normalization of violence among inner-city youth: a formulation for research. American Journal of Orthopsychiatry, 72, 92–101.

    PubMed  Google Scholar 

  43. Ng-Mak, D. S., Salzinger, S., Feldman, R. S., & Stueve, C. (2004). Pathologic adaptation to community violence among inner-city youth. American Journal of Orthopsychiatry, 74(2), 196–207.

    PubMed  Google Scholar 

  44. Opara, I., Lardier, Jr. D. T., Reid, R. J., & Garcia-Reid, P. (2019). “It all starts with the parents”: a qualitative study on the protective factors for drug use prevention among Black and Hispanic girls. Affilia: Journal of Women & Social Work, 34, 199–218. https://doi.org/10.1177/0886109918822543.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  45. Opara, I., Rodas, E. I. R., Lardier, D. T., Garcia-Reid, P., & Reid, R. J. (2020). Validation of the abbreviated socio-political control scale for youth (SPCS-Y) among urban girls of color. Child and Adolescent Social Work Journal, 37(1), 83–95.

    Google Scholar 

  46. Parker, K. F., & Stansfield, R. (2015). The changing urban landscape: interconnections between racial/ethnic segregation and exposure in the study of race-specific violence over time. American Journal of Public Health, 105, 1796–1805. https://doi.org/10.2105/AJPH.2015.302639.

    Article  PubMed  PubMed Central  Google Scholar 

  47. Parsai, M. B., Castro, F. G., Marsiglia, F. F., Harthun, M. L., & Valdez, H. (2011). Using community based participatory research to create a culturally grounded intervention for parents and youth to prevent risky behaviors. Prevention Science, 12, 34–47.

    PubMed Central  Google Scholar 

  48. Patton, M. Q. (2014). Qualitative research & evaluation methods: Integrating theory and practice. Sage publications.

  49. Pinderhughes, H., Davis, R., & Williams, M. (2015). Adverse community experiences and resilience: a framework for addressing and preventing community trauma. Oakland CA: Prevention Institute.

    Google Scholar 

  50. Porter, L. C., De Biasi, A., Mitchell, S., Curtis, A., & Jefferis, E. (2019). Understanding the criminogenic properties of vacant housing: a mixed methods approach. Journal of Research in Crime and Delinquency, 56(3), 378–411.

    Google Scholar 

  51. Rawles, P. D. (2010). The link between poverty, the proliferation of violence and the development of traumatic stress among urban youth in the united states to school violence: a trauma informed, social justice approach to school violence. Forum on Public Policy Online, 2010(4), 1–14.

    Google Scholar 

  52. Ries, A. V., Voorhees, C. C., Roche, K. M., Gittelsohn, J., Yan, A. F., & Astone, N. M. (2009). A quantitative examination of park characteristics related to park use and physical activity among urban youth. Journal of Adolescent Health, 45(3), S64–S70.

    PubMed  Google Scholar 

  53. Revital, G. (2017). Trauma theory and trauma-informed care in substance use disorders: a conceptual model for integrating coping and resilience. Advances in Social Work, 18(Iss 1), 186–201. https://doi.org/10.18060/21312.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  54. Roscigno, V. J., Karafin, D. L., & Tester, G. (2009). The complexities and processes of racial housing discrimination. Social Problems, 56(1), 49–69. https://doi.org/10.1525/sp.2009.56.1.49.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  55. Sampson, R. J. (2012). Neighborhood inequality, violence, and the social infrastructure of the American city. In: W. F. Tate (Ed.), Research on schools, neighborhoods, and communities: toward civic responsibility (pp. 11–28). New York, NY, Rowman & Littlefield Publishers.

  56. Sharkey, P., & Sampson, R. J. (2010). Destination effects: residential mobility and trajectories of adolescent violence in a stratified metropolis. Criminology, 48(3), 639–681.

    PubMed  PubMed Central  Google Scholar 

  57. Shaw, A., Brady, B., McGrath, B., Brennan, M. A., & Dolan, P. (2014). Understanding youth civic engagement: debates, discourses, and lessons from practice. Community Development, 45(4), 300–316.

    Google Scholar 

  58. Speer, P. W., & Hughey, J. (1995). Community organizing: an ecological route to empowerment and power. American journal of community psychology, 23(5), 729–748.

    PubMed  Google Scholar 

  59. Stockdale, S. E., Wells, K. B., Tang, L., Belin, T. R., Zhang, L., & Sherbourne, C. D. (2007). The importance of social context: neighborhood stressors, stress-buffering mechanisms, and alcohol, drug, and mental health disorders. Social Science Medicine, 65, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.socscimed.2007.05.045.

  60. Stoddard, S., Henly, S., Sieving, R., & Bolland, J. (2011). Social connections, trajectories of hopelessness, and serious violence in impoverished urban youth. Journal of Youth & Adolescence, 40(3), 278–295. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10964-010-9580-z.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  61. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration [SAMHSA]. (n.d.). Trauma and violence. SAMHSA. Washington, D.C. https://www.integration.samhsa.gov/clinical-practice/trauma.

  62. Teixeira, S.(2016). Beyond broken windows: youth perspectives on housing abandonment and its impact on individual and community well-being. Child Indicators Research, 9(3), 581–607.

    Google Scholar 

  63. Tyler, K. A., & Melander, L. A. (2015). Child abuse, street victimization, and substance use among homeless young adults. Youth & Society, 47(4), 502–519.

    Google Scholar 

  64. Ullman, S. E., Relyea, M., Peter-Hagene, L., & Vasquez, A. L. (2013). Trauma histories, substance use coping, PTSD, and problem substance use among sexual assault victims. Addictive behaviors, 38(6), 2219–2223.

    PubMed  PubMed Central  Google Scholar 

  65. U.S. Census Bureau. (2016). Retrieved from: https://www.census.gov.

  66. van Wesel, F., Alisic, E., & Boeije, H. (2014). Using qualitative evidence to optimize child PTSD treatment guidelines. Psychological Trauma, 6(5), 546.

    Google Scholar 

  67. Wade, R. J., Shea, J. A., Rubin, D., & Wood, J. (2014). Adverse childhood experiences of low-income urban youth. Pediatrics, 134(1), e13–e20. https://doi.org/10.1542/peds.2013-2475.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  68. Wallace, S. A., Neilands, T. B., & Sanders Phillips, K. (2017). Neighborhood context, psychological outlook, and risk behaviors among urban African American youth. Cultural Diversity and Ethnic Minority Psychology, 23(1), 59–69. https://doi.org/10.1037/cdp0000108.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  69. Williams, J. L., Aiyer, S. M., Durkee, M. I., & Tolan, P. H. (2014). The protective role of ethnic identity for urban adolescent males facing multiple stressors. Journal of Youth and Adolescence, 43(10), 1728–1741.

    PubMed  Google Scholar 

  70. Williams, D. R., & Collins, C. (2016). Racial residential segregation: a fundamental cause of racial disparities in health. Public Health Reports, 116(6), 404–416.

    Google Scholar 

  71. Wu, N. S., Schairer, L. C., Dellor, E., & Grella, C. (2010). Childhood trauma and health outcomes in adults with comorbid substance abuse and mental health disorders. Addictive Behaviors, 35, 68–71.

    PubMed  Google Scholar 

  72. Yabiku, S., Kulis, S., Marsiglia, F. F., Lewin, B., Nieri, T., & Hussaini, S. (2007). Neighborhood effects on the efficacy of a program to prevent youth alcohol use. Substance Use & Misuse, 42, 65–87. https://doi.org/10.1080/10826080601094264.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  73. Zeldin, S., Gauley, J., Krauss, S. E., Kornbluh, M., & Collura, J. (2017). Youth–adult partnership and youth civic development: cross-national analyses for scholars and field professionals. Youth & Society, 49(7), 851–878.

    Google Scholar 

  74. Zyromski, B. (2007). African American and Latino youth and post-traumatic stress syndrome: effects on school violence and interventions for school counselors. Journal of School Violence, 6(1), 121–137.

    Google Scholar 

Download references

Acknowledgements

The first author was supported by a National Institute on Drug Abuse T 32 Training Grant (5T32 DA07233). This study was supported by the Drug Free Communities Grant (DFC) Initiative (Grant #SP022-19-01), funded through the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA). Points of view, opinions, and conclusions in this paper do not necessarily represent the official position of the U.S. Government.

Author information

Affiliations

Authors

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Ijeoma Opara.

Ethics declarations

Conflict of Interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Ethics Statement

All procedures performed in studies involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institutional and/or national research committee (include name of committee + reference number) and with the 1964 Helsinki declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards.

Informed Consent

Informed consent was obtained from all individual participants included in the study.

Additional information

Publisher’s note Springer Nature remains neutral with regard to jurisdictional claims in published maps and institutional affiliations.

Supplementary information

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Verify currency and authenticity via CrossMark

Cite this article

Opara, I., Lardier, D.T., Metzger, I. et al. “Bullets Have no Names”: A Qualitative Exploration of Community Trauma Among Black and Latinx Youth. J Child Fam Stud 29, 2117–2129 (2020). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10826-020-01764-8

Download citation

Keywords

  • Community trauma
  • Violence
  • Youth
  • Drug use