Over 1 billion children worldwide are exposed to political violence and armed conflict. The current conclusions are qualified by limited longitudinal research testing sophisticated process-oriented explanatory models for child adjustment outcomes. In this study, consistent with a developmental psychopathology perspective emphasizing the value of process-oriented longitudinal study of child adjustment in developmental and social–ecological contexts, we tested emotional insecurity about the community as a dynamic, within-person mediating process for relations between sectarian community violence and child adjustment. Specifically, this study explored children's emotional insecurity at a person-oriented level of analysis assessed over 5 consecutive years, with child gender examined as a moderator of indirect effects between sectarian community violence and child adjustment. In the context of a five-wave longitudinal research design, participants included 928 mother–child dyads in Belfast (453 boys, 475 girls) drawn from socially deprived, ethnically homogenous areas that had experienced political violence. Youth ranged in age from 10 to 20 years and were 13.24 (SD = 1.83) years old on average at the initial time point. Greater insecurity about the community measured over multiple time points mediated relations between sectarian community violence and youth's total adjustment problems. The pathway from sectarian community violence to emotional insecurity about the community was moderated by child gender, with relations to emotional insecurity about the community stronger for girls than for boys. The results suggest that ameliorating children's insecurity about community in contexts of political violence is an important goal toward improving adolescents' well-being and adjustment. These results are discussed in terms of their translational research implications, consistent with a developmental psychopathology model for the interface between basic and intervention research.
- emotional security
- youth’s total adjustment problems
- Political violence
- social ecology
- mental health