Change in Externalizing Problems Over Time Among Ethnic Minority Youth Exposed to Violence

Published in: Children and Youth Services Review [Epub September 2017]. doi: 10.1016/j.childyouth.2017.09.010

by Lynsay Ayer, Claude Messan Setodji, Dana Schultz, Lisa H. Jaycox, Aaron Kofner

Read More

Access further information on this document at Elsevier

This article was published outside of RAND. The full text of the article can be found at the link above.

Youth exposed to violence, many of whom are from racial/ethnic minority backgrounds, are at high risk for externalizing problems such as aggressive and oppositional behavior, conduct problems, and delinquency. Most interventions target youth with already high levels of such problems, while selective prevention efforts have received less attention. It is important for researchers, policy makers and practitioners to understand how such problems develop and change over time, and how selective prevention may impact externalizing problems. In this study, we examined one-year trajectories of externalizing problems in 883 low-income, ethnic minority youth exposed to violence who participated in randomized controlled trials testing a prevention program for high-risk youth called the Strengthening Families Program. We found three trajectories of externalizing problems: Low Externalizing (43% of the sample had consistently low levels of externalizing symptoms), Persisters (39% of the sample had consistently high levels of externalizing symptoms), and Improvers (18% of the sample had initially high levels of externalizing symptoms that decreased over time). There were demographic differences between the three trajectories with individuals in the Low Externalizing trajectory more likely to be female and younger than those in the other two trajectories and Persisters and Improvers had significantly more problems with baseline internalizing symptoms, family conflict, and parenting behavior compared to the Low Externalizing trajectory. Logistic regressions then tested several predictors of membership in the Persisters trajectory compared to the Improvers trajectory, controlling for all covariates simultaneously. Only baseline parenting behavior and intervention group membership significantly predicted trajectory membership, and these were small and unreliable effects. Thus, children with varying levels of violence exposure, co-occurring emotional/behavioral problems and family issues, and varying demographics (e.g., age and gender) may do equally well over time, but engagement in this type of intervention may increase the likelihood that high levels of externalizing problems are ameliorated over time.

This report is part of the RAND Corporation External publication series. Many RAND studies are published in peer-reviewed scholarly journals, as chapters in commercial books, or as documents published by other organizations.

Our mission to help improve policy and decisionmaking through research and analysis is enabled through our core values of quality and objectivity and our unwavering commitment to the highest level of integrity and ethical behavior. To help ensure our research and analysis are rigorous, objective, and nonpartisan, we subject our research publications to a robust and exacting quality-assurance process; avoid both the appearance and reality of financial and other conflicts of interest through staff training, project screening, and a policy of mandatory disclosure; and pursue transparency in our research engagements through our commitment to the open publication of our research findings and recommendations, disclosure of the source of funding of published research, and policies to ensure intellectual independence. For more information, visit

The RAND Corporation is a nonprofit institution that helps improve policy and decisionmaking through research and analysis. RAND's publications do not necessarily reflect the opinions of its research clients and sponsors.