Theses Doctoral

Emotional and Cognitive Disturbances in Adolescents Exposed to Community Gun Violence

Nicholls, Joanne

Exposure to community gun violence is increasing a sense of anxiety and hypervigilance in American society today. Whether or not they are direct victims, American children and adolescents often become casualties of community gun violence. Their safety, well-being, and even survival are at risk due to continued exposure to gun violence in their communities. This study utilized a retrospective sample of adolescents derived from the National Survey of Children’s Exposure to Violence (NatSCEV) to understand the prevalence and severity of cognitive and emotional symptoms associated with childhood exposure to community gun violence compared to other types of adverse childhood events.

The results showed that adolescents who have been exposed to community gun violence self-reported higher levels of negative emotion and cognitive disturbance in comparison to peers who have had no exposure to these forms of adverse events. Compared to these peers reporting no adverse events, an increase of 30% was observed in negative emotions and 33% in cognitive disturbance when the adolescent is exposed to community gun violence. An increase of 22% in negative emotions and 30% in cognitive disturbance was observed when an adolescent is exposed to other forms of community disorder. Finally, adolescent participants who were exposed to childhood adverse events other than community disorder and gun violence reported 8% greater negative emotions and 28% greater cognitive disturbance than peers reporting no adverse events during adolescence. These results suggest that exposure to gun violence promotes negative emotionality and increases cognitive disturbance.

Geographic Areas


  • thumnail for Nicholls_tc.columbia_0055E_11267.pdf Nicholls_tc.columbia_0055E_11267.pdf application/pdf 1.02 MB Download File

More About This Work

Academic Units
Human Development
Thesis Advisors
Rajan, Sonali
Corter, James E.
Ed.D., Teachers College, Columbia University
Published Here
March 2, 2022