Introduction: Being exposed to violence during adolescence has been associated with negative effects in later life, especially among African American youth. Greater exposure to violence may negatively affect an individual’s future orientation. Future orientation has important positive health implications, such as a lower likelihood of engaging in violent behavior. Therefore, the relationship between exposure to violence and future orientation warrants being studied. Furthermore, it is critical to understand the mechanism through which this relationship works. The purpose of this study was to examine the mediating effect of perceived stress on the relationship between exposure to violence as an adolescent and future orientation as a young adult. Using a resilience perspective, we also tested the moderating effect of family participation on the relationship between perceived stress and future orientation. Family participation refers to the extent to which members of a family engage actively in various recreational activities (e.g., playing a sport) or other fun events (e.g., attending a concert) together.
Methods: Longitudinal data from a sample of 316 African American participants (42.10% male and 57.90% female, Mage = 14.76 at Wave 1) recruited from a Midwestern school district were used in the analysis. Multi-group structural equation modeling (SEM) was used to test our hypotheses.
Results: Results from our multi-group SEM model showed that greater exposure to violence during adolescence is associated with higher levels of perceived stress and, in turn, a more negative outlook on one’s future. Furthermore, we found that the negative effect of perceived stress on future orientation was buffered for adolescents with high levels of family participation. This buffering effect was not present among adolescents with low levels of family participation.
Conclusions: Our results suggest that youth development programs designed to increase the amount of time youth and their families spend participating in recreational events and supportive activities may be particularly useful to mitigate the negative effects of exposure to violence during adolescence. Additionally, our results support previous literature highlighting the salience of parents and families in the lives of youth.