Violence’s Effect On Teen Survivors: Worse Than War Zones?


Violent crime soared in some Boston neighborhoods in recent years. The Boston Globe says that lost amid the efforts to halt the killings and a flood of press coverage about dead victims is the impact of violence on those who survive. Last year, 42 percent of 900 Boston public high school students surveyed in a Harvard University study said they knew well or were related to someone who had been killed. The Globe interviewed students at Noonan, a high school of about 260 students. Nearby last week, the owner of a pizza parlor was fatally shot when he tried to stop a burglary.

The teenagers do not express the feeling of invincibility typical of other youths; in their universe, violence is random, sudden, and lethal, no one can protect them, and no place is safe. Said one student: “Around here, you can get shot no matter where you are, just because you are outside. You can be on your way to volunteer to help little kids, and you’ll still get shot.” There is little research on violence’s effect on teenagers. Some specialists compare their psychological trauma to mental scars incurred in war zones. The sense of hopelessness, grief, fear, and loss associated with street violence may affect them more deeply than wartime violence affects children, said James Garbarino of Loyola University in Chicago. “In traditional war zones, there is more coherence and more sense of purpose,” he said.


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