Sara Jaffee -- Exposure to violence: Effects on health and risk associated with early puberty

Thursday, February 23, 2017 - 12:00pm

McNeil 395

Dr. Jaffee is a professor of Psychology at University of Pennsylvania. She is a developmental psychopathologist who conducts research on at-risk families and children. She is interested in how stressful environments exacerbate underlying genetic vulnerabilities to affect children’s development, with a special interest in children’s antisocial behavior. Her work combines longitudinal, epidemiological methods with genetically-informative research designs to better understand how risk and protective factors operate in children’s development.


Exposure to violence can become biologically embedded, with implications for health across the life course. In addition, biological characteristics of an individual can increase (or decrease) their exposure to violence. Using data from the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent to Adult Health, I will describe two studies that focus on exposure to violence. Study 1 tests whether exposure to violence in the community in adolescence and young adulthood is associated with poor self-reported health or biomarkers of health. This study tests a number of non-causal pathways by which exposure to violence may be related to poor health in adulthood. Study 2 identifies the conditions under which girls who make a relatively early transition to puberty are at risk for adolescent dating abuse. Using peer network data, we find that in the group of girls who made a relatively early transition to puberty, the higher the proportion of male friends they name in their networks, the greater their risk for adolescent dating abuse. This effect was not observed for girls who made a relatively later transition to puberty. In contrast, all girls were at elevated risk for adolescent dating abuse, the higher the proportion of deviant friends in their network.