Examining Bidirectional Pathways between Exposure to Political Violence and Adolescent Adjustment in Northern Ireland

E. Mark Cummings, Laura K. Taylor, Han Du, Christine E. Merrilees, Marcie C. Goeke-Morey, Peter Shirlow

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Research on social ecologies of political violence has been largely confined to cross-sectional tests of the impact of political violence on child adjustment, limiting perspectives on more nuanced causal pathways, including tests of reciprocal relations between exposure to political violence and child adjustment. Based on a four-wave longitudinal study, this research breaks new ground in assessing bidirectional relations between exposure to political violence in the form of experience with sectarian antisocial behavior and adolescents’ adjustment problems. The study included 999 mother–adolescent dyads selected from working-class neighborhoods in Belfast ranked in the bottom quartile in terms of social deprivation in Northern Ireland, with approximately 35–40 families recruited to participate from each neighborhood. Across the four annual waves of data, adolescents (52% female) were 12.18 (SD = 1.82), 13.24 (SD = 1.83), 13.62 (SD = 1.99), and 14.66 (SD = 1.96) years old. Cross-lagged path models were tested through R package lavaan with full information maximum likelihood. Reflecting a reciprocal pathway, adjustment problems related to higher reports of experience with sectarian antisocial behavior 1 year later. Boys’ experience with sectarian antisocial behavior related to greater adjustment problems 1 year later, but this reciprocal path did hold for the girls. These findings offer promising directions toward better modeling of dynamic relations between exposure to political violence and adolescent adjustment over time.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of Clinical Child and Adolescent Psychology
Early online date20 Jan 2017
Publication statusEarly online date - 20 Jan 2017



  • child and adolescent adjustment
  • political violence
  • gender differences
  • community violence
  • bidirectional pathways

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