Social connections, trajectories of hopelessness and serious violence in impoverished urban youth

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Social connections, trajectories of hopelessness and serious violence in impoverished urban youth

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Adolescence is a time of immense change and transition. During adolescence, a hopeful sense for the future can facilitate positive development, support health-enhancing behaviors, and promote a successful transition into adulthood. The purpose of this study was to develop and test a longitudinal model linking positive social connections (connectedness to mother, neighborhood connectedness) and violence involvement during early adolescence with serious violence involvement (violence with a weapon) during later adolescence via trajectories of hopelessness during middle adolescence. The proposed hope/hopelessness trajectory model is influenced by ecological theory of development and research on adolescent development, and focuses on individual development in context. Propositions in the longitudinal model were evaluated. Relationships between social connections, hopelessness trajectories and violent behaviors were examined in a sample of 723 adolescents who participated in 5 or more years of the Mobile Youth Survey (MYS). The MYS is a multiple cohort study involving 10-19 year old youth (mostly African American) from impoverished neighborhoods in Mobile and Pritchard, Alabama. This secondary analysis used general growth mixture modeling with multiple group analysis to (a) estimate parameters of hopelessness trajectories during middle adolescence, (b) identify latent classes based on developmental patterns of hopelessness, (c) identify precursors of middle adolescence hopelessness trajectories in early adolescent social connections and violence experiences, and (d) assess the impact of hopelessness trajectories on violence with weapon during later adolescence. This analysis was completed simultaneously for boys and girls. A low hopelessness class and an increasingly hopeless class were identified for both boys and girls. The influence of early adolescent predictors varied based on gender and latent hopelessness trajectory class. Overall, connection to mother was associated with decreased levels of hopelessness, particularly for increasingly hopeless girls and low hopeless boys. For increasingly hopeless girls, fighting during early adolescence was associated with lower initial levels of hopelessness but also with increasing hopelessness over time. Gender differences were apparent for violence with a weapon during later adolescence. Increasingly hopeless girls participated in more serious violence during later adolescence than low hopelessness girls. Regardless of latent class, more boys than girls participated in serious violence during later adolescence. Trajectories of hopelessness during middle adolescence influenced participation in violence with a weapon at a critical transition point in life. Identifying trajectories of hopelessness and examining the role of hopelessness trajectories in the relationship between social connectedness and violence involvement will serve as foundation for innovative, developmentally based nursing interventions designed to prevent youth violence among impoverished, at-risk youth.


University of Minnesota Ph.D. dissertation. May 2009. Major: Nursing. Advisors:Susan J. Henly and Renee E. Sieving. 1 computer file (PDF); x, 177 pages, appendices A-E.

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Stoddard, Sarah Anne. (2009). Social connections, trajectories of hopelessness and serious violence in impoverished urban youth. Retrieved from the University Digital Conservancy,

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