This study examined how maternal distress mediates the link between exposure to community violence (CV) and the development of early child behavior problems. Research was conducted among 160 children, 3,0 to 5,11 in age, who resided in high-crime neighborhoods. Using structural equation modeling, latent variables were constructed to identify model components: maternal socioeconomic status (SES) and public assistance status, exposure to CV (maternal perceptions of local violence, social disorder, and fear of crime; and frequency of child cowitnessing violent events), family aggression (partner aggression toward mother and partner aggression toward child), maternal distress (global distress and posttraumatic stress disorder symptoms), and early child behavior problems (internalizing and externalizing). Bivariate correlations indicated that CV, maternal distress, and early child behavior problems were significantly intercorrelated. A series of structural equation models was specified to estimate the direct and indirect effect of CV on early child behavior problems. A direct model indicated a significant path from CV to early child behavior problems, after controlling for maternal SES and family aggression. The direct CV-early child behavior problems path diminished, however, when maternal distress was included in the model, after controlling for maternal SES and family aggression. Results are consistent with a mediation model of the impact of maternal distress symptoms on the link between CV and early child behavior problems.
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