Violence exposure and bullying among African American adolescents: Examining the protective role of academic engagement

Caitlin Elsaesser, Jun Sung Hong, Dexter R. Voisin

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16 Scopus citations


While African American youth are at disproportionate risk for both community violence exposure and bullying, few studies have examined the association between these two forms of violence in this population. Moreover, given the countless hours that youth spend in schools, identifying school experiences that might protect against this association is an important step to reducing the likelihood of engagement in bullying. The present study explored whether academic engagement buffers the association between exposure to community violence (i.e., hearing about violence, witnessing or victimization) and bullying involvement (i.e., perpetration or victimization) in a cross-sectional sample of low-income African American adolescents residing in Chicago. A convenience sample of 638 African American high school students were recruited from several Chicago neighborhoods between 2014 and 2015. A series of hierarchical linear regression models assessed the relation between types of community violence exposure, academic engagement and bullying behaviors. We found that youth exposed to community violence – specifically, those who had been victimized and heard about violence – were at increased risk for being victims and perpetrators of bullying. High academic engagement reduced the likelihood that youth who heard about violence well would be at higher risk for bullying involvement. Prevention efforts aimed at reducing bullying involvement would benefit from assessing and targeting violence and victimization in the community, in addition to youths’ school experiences.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)394-402
Number of pages9
JournalChildren and Youth Services Review
StatePublished - 1 Nov 2016

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2016


  • Academic engagement
  • Adolescence
  • African American youth
  • Bullying
  • Community violence exposure


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