Civic Engagement Among Youth Exposed to Community Violence: Directions for Research and Practice


  • Sonia Jain DNA Global, LLC
  • Alison K. Cohen University of San Francisco, School of Management, Department of Public and Nonprofit Administration
  • Kei Kawashima-Ginsberg Center for Information & Research on Civic Learning and Engagement, Tufts University
  • Catherine d. P. Duarte University of California, Berkeley School of Public Health, Division of Epidemiology
  • Alexander Pope Department of Secondary and Physical Education, Salisbury University



assets-based, civic engagement, community violence, resilience, urban youth, youth development


Historically and contemporarily marginalized youth who are disproportionately exposed to community violence are often the same youth who are less likely to be civically engaged. However, the community violence and civic engagement literatures have not yet fully explored how these experiences may be linked in young people’s lives and in relation to what other forces. Using developmental assets and ecological-transactional frameworks, we review the emerging literature on civic engagement among youth exposed to community violence and how external developmental assets and neighborhood collective efficacy may create opportunity for their increased civic engagement. We present numerous conceptually- and empirically-based hypotheses to further examine the intersections between exposure to community violence and youth civic engagement. Ultimately, we identify opportunities for intervention.

Author Biographies

Sonia Jain, DNA Global, LLC

Sonia Jain, DrPH, MPH, is the founder and principal of Data in Action. A social developmental epidemiologist, Jain conducts research and evaluation in youth development and resilience, the link between health and education, violence, mental health, and understanding school- and community-level influences on youth health inequities.

Alison K. Cohen, University of San Francisco, School of Management, Department of Public and Nonprofit Administration

Alison K. Cohen, PhD, MPH, is an assistant professor of public and nonprofit administration in the School of Management at University of San Francisco. Trained in epidemiology and education, Cohen has worked in, studied, and evaluated public health, education, and civic engagement programs serving urban youth in diverse settings.

Kei Kawashima-Ginsberg, Center for Information & Research on Civic Learning and Engagement, Tufts University

Kei Kawashima-Ginsberg, PhD, is director of CIRCLE (Center for Information & Research on Civic Learning & Engagement at Tufts University). A psychologist by training, she studies youth civic and political development with a focus on positive youth development. 

Catherine d. P. Duarte, University of California, Berkeley School of Public Health, Division of Epidemiology

Catherine d. P. Duarte, MSc, is a PhD candidate in the Division of Epidemiology at UC Berkeley’s School of Public Health. Her research focuses on examining how education and criminal justice policy may be associated with racial/ethnic health inequities throughout the lifecourse.

Alexander Pope, Department of Secondary and Physical Education, Salisbury University

Alexander Pope (Sandy) is an assistant professor in the Department of Secondary and Physical Education at Salisbury University. His primary appointment involves undergraduate and graduate social studies methods. A former classroom teacher, he earned his Ph.D. in social studies education from Columbia University. Sandy also serves as the Co-Director of the Institute for Public Affairs and Civic Engagement with Dr. Sarah Surak. The non-partisan institute promotes community partnerships grounded in social justice and the civic responsibility of public education. Sandy is interested in all areas of civic engagement, but particularly the ways in which students and teachers come to see themselves as change-agents in their communities.


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