Violence Also Killing Educational Future of our Children
As if the body count wasn’t enough, research confirms what many of us already know: kids in violent settings have lower achievement and test scores.
Children living in areas where homicides are committed have lower reading and verbal test scores, a study by New York University Sociology Professor Patrick Sharkey shows. The research, which appears in the latest issue of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, examined test scores of children living in Chicago.
“These findings make clear the impact violence can have on children living in the area, regardless of whether they witness violence directly or are personally victimized,” said Sharkey, an assistant professor in NYU’s Department of Sociology. “The results suggest that children may carry the burden of violence with them as they take part in daily life within the neighborhood or school settings.”
To conduct the study, Sharkey combined data on reported homicides occurring in Chicago from 1994 through 2002 with a survey of children and families interviewed through the Project on Human Development in Chicago Neighborhoods (PHDCN) that was conducted over the same time period. He then replicated his analysis using another independent survey of youth in Chicago—the “Three City Study of Welfare, Children and Families,” a longitudinal survey of low-income families living in Chicago and two other cities.
To measure the impact of a local homicide, Sharkey compared the test scores of children who were assessed directly after a homicide in their neighborhood with other children in the same neighborhood who were assessed at different times. He took into account three geographic areas of increasing size: “block groups,” which are small sets of city blocks that have about 1,500 residents; “census tracts,” which are slightly larger and have about 4,000 residents; and “neighborhood clusters,” which have about 8,000 residents. Because all comparisons were made among children living within the same neighborhoods, the analysis can be thought of like an experiment in which some children are randomly picked to be assessed in the days following a local homicide while other children are picked to be assessed at a different point, further removed from the date of the homicide.