Gender patterns in the contribution of different types of violence to posttraumatic stress symptoms among South African urban youth
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OBJECTIVE: Identifying the comparative contributions of different forms of violence exposure to trauma sequelae can help to prioritize interventions for polyvictimized youth living in contexts of limited mental health resources. This study aimed to establish gender patterns in the independent and comparative contributions of five types of violence exposure to the severity of posttraumatic stress symptoms among Xhosa-speaking South African adolescents. METHOD: Xhosa-speaking adolescents (n = 230) attending a high school in a low-income urban community in South Africa completed measures of violence exposure and posttraumatic stress symptoms. RESULTS: While witnessing of community violence was by far the most common form of violence exposure, for the sample as a whole only sexual victimization and being a direct victim of community violence, together with gender, contributed independently to the severity of posttraumatic stress symptoms. When the contribution of different forms of violence was examined separately for each gender, only increased exposure to community and sexual victimization were associated with symptom severity among girls, while increased exposure to direct victimization in both the community and domestic settings were associated with greater symptom severity in boys. CONCLUSIONS: The findings provide some preliminary motivation for focusing trauma intervention initiatives in this community on girls who have experienced sexual abuse compounded by victimization in the community, and boys who have been direct victims of either domestic or community violence. Further research is required to establish whether the risk factors for posttraumatic stress symptoms identified among adolescents in this study are consistent across different communities in South Africa, as well as across other resource-constrained contexts.