organization, amenities such as parks and public transportation, and safety) as well as media exposure currently can be gathered from administrative sources or special surveys, but at considerable expense and often not consistently from one geographic unit to the next and, hence, they do not permit generalizable interpretations.
Although there are routine sources of information on youth perpetration of violence, none exists to monitor youth exposure to community violence. Routine population surveys are needed to identify regional and secular trends. Such efforts would provide the foundation for attempts to collect data and design important intervention and support programs for the most affected communities. For example, there is a paucity of data on children’s exposure to community violence in nonurban settings (Buka et al., 2001; Smith and Martin, 1995).
At present only a few longitudinal multilevel studies of children’s exposure to community violence exists. Longitudinal studies, such as the PHDCN (Earls and Buka, 1997), hold the promise of allowing for a more comprehensive evaluation of the complexities of the types of exposure to violence, the context of exposure, and the contribution of potential risk and protective factors in determining child risk.
In addition to the major lack of systematic data collection, several important methodological issues confront future studies of the effects of violence on youth. These include the need to (1) develop consistent definitions of community violence; (2) develop violence exposure measures of proven validity and reliability; (3) determine how best to measure exposure to community violence in young children, including comparisons of child versus parent report and assessment of levels of violence witnessed; and (4) evaluate effects of acute and chronic violence separately.
In addition, research in this area would be facilitated by allowances that distinguish consistently between different forms and severity of violence. More attention should be paid to evaluating the extent to which the effects of children’s exposure to community violence are mediated by family and community response to community violence; for example, the family conditions that reduce the likelihood and consequences of exposure to community violence. Similarly, future research can improve understanding of the role that community violence plays in family violence. At least one team of investigators has noted a strong positive relation between exposure to community violence and the incidence of family violence (Osofsky et al., 1993). This challenge is further complicated by the issues and limitations in confidentiality and mandated reporting regulations under such circumstances, especially when a child’s health is in danger and the perpetrator is one of the child’s caregivers.
Many surveys include one or a few questions assessing aspects of peer relationships throughout childhood. Lacking in most are robust measures of peer relationships with strong psychometric properties that provide a cohesive story across the developmental stages. Thus, there is a need for at least some surveys to