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Living with neighborhood violence may shape teens' brains []


Flinching as a gunshot whizzes past your window. Covering your ears when a police car races down your street, sirens blaring. Walking past a drug deal on your block or a beating at your school.

For kids living in picket-fence suburbia, these experiences might be rare. But for their peers in urban poverty, they are all too commonplace. More than half of children and adolescents living in cities have experienced some form of  – acts of disturbance or crime, such as drug use, beatings, shootings, stabbings and break-ins, within their neighborhoods or schools.

Researchers know from decades of work that exposure to community violence can lead to emotionalsocial and cognitiveproblems. Kids might have difficulty regulating emotions, paying attention or concentrating at school. Over time, kids living with the stress of community violence may become less engaged in school, withdraw from friends or show symptoms of post-traumatic stress, like irritability and intrusive thoughts. In short, living in an unsafe community can have a corrosive effect on child development.

[For more on this story by Darby Saxbe, go to]

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In 2000, an Epidemiologist at [then Dartmouth, now] Geisel Medical School "Grand Rounds" noted: "52% of Detroit Metropolitan Area Schoolchildren met the DSM-IV criteria for PTSD". Similar numbers have since been reported in Philadelphia, Baltimore, and Atlanta, and just this past month, in 5 Charter Schools in New Orleans. I witnessed similar phenomena in the Southeast Bronx in the early 1970's. 

The Florida County Sheriff who compared "Response Call Maps" with the County Public Health Officer, and found almost an exact match, may have been onto something.

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