Adolescent violence and mental health
Violence occurs at multiple levels. It may be experienced personally by an individual (e.g., sexual abuse) through interactions with peers, family, and others, and it may be a feature of the neighbourhood in which they live (e.g., high levels of crime/disorder). Multiple different forms of violence often converge, creating interconnected experiences that normalise violence with cumulative effects on mental health. Existing research has typically focused on the different types of violence and abuse that have been experienced personally by an individual but have ignored the wider social context of violence in which these take place.
Fortunately, not everyone who is exposed to violence develops mental health problems. Understanding factors that protect against poor mental health among adolescents exposed to violence is essential to inform interventions to mitigate its effects.
Using data from the UK Environmental-Risk (E-Risk) Longitudinal Twin Study, a nationally representative and socio-economically diverse cohort, we aim to examine:
- how personal experience of violence and contextual neighbourhood disorder during adolescence combine to impact mental health at the transition to adulthood, and
- factors that protect against the development of mental health problems following exposure to these violent experiences and contexts.
Findings will be interpreted and disseminated in collaboration with young adults with lived experience of violence and mental health difficulties.
Young people and their experiences of violence and mental health are at the core of our project. Focus group discussions helped identify the putative protective factors we will investigate – positive relationships (with family, peers, and other adults), intelligence, and higher family socio-economic status. In addition, 4 young peer researchers with lived experience of violence and mental health difficulties will help interpret the research findings and will be trained to co-author the research paper and a blog.
To investigate our research questions, we will use data from the E-Risk Longitudinal Twin Study, which tracks the development of a nationally representative birth cohort of 2,232 twin children born in 1994-1995 across England and Wales.