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Impact of Community Violence on Children

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Just like family dynamics, neighborhoods can either positively or negatively impact a person’s health. With that, disadvantaged communities are considered high-risk due to the lack of resources, unemployment, inadequate schools, and high levels of crime and violence. When children are exposed to negative contexts within their communities, it poses long-term poor health outcomes. Growing up in violent communities’ cause children to become more vulnerable. 

Common types of community violence that affect youth include “individual and group conflicts (e.g., bullying, fights among gangs, domestic and sexual violence, gun violence, robberies, or murders)” (NCTSN, 2019.) High exposures of community violence delays and affects children as they go through developmental stages. The routine stress puts strain of the mind and body which contributes to a child’s mental and behavioral problems such as anxiety and attention deficit hyperactive disorder (ADHD).

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Equally important, it does not matter if a child hears about the violent events, witness the violent events or a victim of the violence, continued acts of violence only heighten the child’s fears as they began to feel unsafe in their environment. For example, I encountered a personal experience when I was six years old. My parent had divorced; my mom, my siblings and I moved to Florida. Not knowing the conditions of the apartment complex, my mom signed a year-lease. 

Within a week, I had been exposed to community violence. The first murder I heard the neighbors talking about what happened. Sadly, the second murder, I witnessed as my family was headed out the door to Sunday morning church. The person who was shot and killed, landed in on the stairway our home (he was visiting our next-door neighbors). We moved out three weeks later, but those violent acts still traumatize me 20 years later. I could only imagine growing up in a neighborhood where crime and violence is persistent.

In addition, there are a combinations of cognitive, emotional and behavioral indicators children may experience due to being exposed to community violence including difficulties sleeping at night, hesitant to play outside with friends, have trouble concentrating in school, not completing chorus at home, loss of appetite, increase of aggressive behaviors toward peers and family members and begin to isolated themselves from others. These are signs or changes the children may exhibit due to the exposures of violent events in their community. If a person’s psychological wellbeing is not functioning at a healthy level then it is most likely a person’s physical behaviors are going to be compromised, especially if symptoms are untreated.

Moreover, my personal skills, characteristic and strength are useful tools to utilize when engaging with children dealing with trauma. To begin engaging with youth who suffering from traumatic events or experiences my strength of good communication is essential. This will help build rapport which will allows the children to trust me and to feel comfortable talking to me. Children and adolescents may be reluctant to share their fears or discuss their situation if my verbal and non-verbal communication is displayed in a demanding or negative manner. First, I like to start off with asking the child their favorite hobby or T.V. show and show interest in whatever they find interesting or fun.

Continually, the act of caring is a characteristic I would exhibit when addressing children and their families dealing with community violence. I want them to feel a sense of safeness when they are in my presents. I am a kindhearted person and I have a passionate of helping others to overcome adversities and reaching their potential. Lastly, having good listening skills and showing empathy would helps the children and their families to understand that they I am here to assist them and help improve the quality of their life. Also by having empathy, the children and their families will feel not alone and will know that I care. Being an active listener and showing empathy, having good communication skills and a caring attitude are professional tools I will utilizes when working with children and families that are impacted by community violence.

Furthermore, some challenges I may encounter as a engage with this population is secondary traumatic stress. Personally, I know I cannot work with children who endure trauma for abuse, neglect or violence. I find it hard to be committed and not to be emotionally involved to where it will not affect my professional conduct. I am not sure if I can always be open-minded to the parent’s situation without being bias or non-judgmental. I sympathize a lot with children and adolescents because they are so vulnerable and helpless to their circumstances and environment, but I know working with this population would be a big challenge for me.

Research indicates many children have experience high levels of community violence. Unfortunately, “sixty percent of American children were exposed to violence, crime, or abuse in their homes, schools, and communities” (U.S. Department of Justice, 2017). This shows how frequent violence is occurring within their day-to-day activities. Quite often are children being exposed to violence in their home, “one in ten American children saw one family member assault another family member, and more than 25 percent had been exposed to family violence during their life” (U.S. Department of Justice, 2017). There are several forms of family violence-sexual, physical, and emotional abuse, each has negative effects and put the whole family at dangers. Often, families are subconscious to the consequences of abuse and how it susceptible to risky behaviors and long-term health problems.  

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