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Press Release

Exposure to violence in early childhood linked to risky behaviors later in life, say Cleveland Fed researchers

Children who are exposed to violence are more likely to engage in risky behaviors when they are older, and if they are also black, they are more likely to die young, according to a new study released by the Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland. The study supplies evidence of strong links between exposure to violence in early childhood and risky behavior and mortality by analyzing census data and data from a long-term study of adolescents.

“We found that young black males in the United States are exposed to much more violence in early childhood than their white counterparts,” said the authors, Dionissi Aliprantis and Anne Chen. “We also show that exposure to violence has a strong relationship with a host of undesirable outcomes later, and that relationship tends to be the same regardless of race, household income, mother‘s educational attainment, or family structure.” Such outcomes include being suspended from school or being arrested, for example.

The authors suggest two approaches to address the problems caused by early exposure to violence.

The first is to improve the environment in which children grow up by improving early childhood education and enhancing the school and home environments. Programs currently attracting attention along these lines include Community-Oriented Policing Services (COPS), which is intended to make neighborhoods safer, and the Promise Neighborhood Initiative, which is focused on improving educational outcomes.

The second approach is to equip children with tools to help lessen the environmentally determined component of skill development and magnify the individually determined component. Examples include giving kids access to technologies like the internet or equipping them with strategies like visualization techniques shown to improve goal attainment.

Read The Consequences of Exposure to Violence during Early Childhood

Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland

The Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland is one of 12 regional Reserve Banks that along with the Board of Governors in Washington DC comprise the Federal Reserve System. Part of the US central bank, the Cleveland Fed participates in the formulation of our nation’s monetary policy, supervises banking organizations, provides payment and other services to financial institutions and to the US Treasury, and performs many activities that support Federal Reserve operations System-wide. In addition, the Bank supports the well-being of communities across the Fourth Federal Reserve District through a wide array of research, outreach, and educational activities.

The Cleveland Fed, with branches in Cincinnati and Pittsburgh, serves an area that comprises Ohio, western Pennsylvania, eastern Kentucky, and the northern panhandle of West Virginia.

Media contact

Doug Campbell,, 513.455.4479