Ducharme A-M, Lanctôt N, Laurier C, Lemieux A. (2023). Traumatic sequelae of exposure to street gangs in young women placed in residential care during adolescence: Examining the dose-response relationship. Journal of Aggression, Maltreatment & Trauma.
Exposure to street gangs in girls represents a complex trauma experience due to many reasons, including their complicated relationships with male gang members, repeated exposure to potentially traumatic events within the gang setting, and the developmental stage of adolescence when gang exposure typically occurs. However, research exploring the various complex trauma symptoms associated with gang exposure among girls has been sparse. Therefore, using a longitudinal design, this study examined the impact of adolescent girls’ street gang exposure on complex trauma symptoms in emerging adulthood, considering the influence of previous traumatic experiences in childhood. The study involved 110 adolescent girls admitted at two residential care centers in Montreal, Canada, between January 2008 and October 2009. It analyzed the effects of both initial occurrence and recurrence of exposure to street gangs. The findings demonstrated the harmful effects of repeated and prolonged exposure to street gangs during adolescence and emerging adulthood on a wide range of complex trauma symptoms, including post-traumatic stress, insecure attachment, externalization, and somatization. These findings emphasize the need for implementing trauma-informed approaches when addressing the challenges faced by girls who have been exposed to street gangs.