Background: Over one billion children are exposed worldwide to political violence and armed conflict. Currently, conclusions about bases for adjustment problems are qualified by limited longitudinal research from a process-oriented, social-ecological perspective. In this study, we examined a theoretically-based model for the impact of multiple levels of the social ecology (family, community) on adolescent delinquency. Specifically, this study explored the impact of children’s emotional insecurity about both the family and community on youth delinquency in Northern Ireland. Methods: In the context of a five-wave longitudinal research design, participants included 999 mother-child dyads in Belfast (482 boys, 517 girls), drawn from socially-deprived, ethnically-homogenous areas that had experienced political violence. Youth ranged in age from 10 to 20 and were 12.18 (SD = 1.82) years old on average at Time 1. Findings: The longitudinal analyses were conducted in hierarchical linear modeling (HLM), allowing for the modeling of inter-individual differences in intra-individual change. Intra-individual trajectories of emotional insecurity about the family related to children’s delinquency. Greater insecurity about the community worsened the impact of family conflict on youth’s insecurity about the family, consistent with the notion that youth’s insecurity about the community sensitizes them to exposure to family conflict in the home. Conclusions: The results suggest that ameliorating children’s insecurity about family and community in contexts of political violence is an important goal toward improving adolescents’ well-being, including reduced risk for delinquency.
- Political violence, social ecology, family, community, mental health, emotional security, delinquency