Beats Per Minute: Exploring The Impact Of Violence And Neighborhood Conditions On Adolescents In Philadelphia Neighborhoods

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Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)
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Social Welfare
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Social Work
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Exposure to violence and adverse neighborhood conditions in adolescence represent unique traumas that disrupt developmental milestones and have long-term health consequences, such as increased risk of cardiovascular disease. Research on the impacts of both violence and adverse neighborhood conditions has primarily been quantitative and has relied on pre-determined understandings of violence. Less is known about how adolescents define violence, and what causes them to feel stress and fear in real-time. This study fills this gap by using ethnographic methods and innovative technology to explore the ways in which violence and neighborhood environments impact adolescents. Twelve older adolescents, aged 16 through 21-years-old, were recruited from two youth-focused centers in different areas of Philadelphia. Findings from this research highlight the voices of older adolescents and will inform policy and programmatic interventions around violence. Though much is known about the long-term detrimental impacts to health and well-being resulting from exposure to violence, poverty, and adverse neighborhood conditions in adolescence, there is a lack of understanding around what causes adolescents to experience fear and stress in their neighborhoods in real time. The evidence is skewed toward younger adolescents, as they are an easier population to gain access to through schools. Further, little is known about how adolescents define and experience violence in their own words. For example, we know that place matters when it comes to exposure, but we do not know the mechanisms through which place matters. Capturing adolescents’ conceptualizations of their neighborhoods and experiences could help shed light on this. Too often, policies and practices are imposed onto communities and individuals without considering their lived experiences. This study addresses this need and fills this gap through the use of innovative mixed methods, including tracking the biometrics of adolescents as they go throughout their day as well as in-home and mobile interviews to capture their lived experiences of violence and their neighborhoods.

Roberta Iversen
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