INTRODUCTION: High social-emotional functioning, including emotion regulation and nonviolent conflict resolution, constitute developmental competencies of adolescence that promote health and well-being. We used prospective longitudinal data from a predominantly Latinx population to understand how family context and social environment risk factors for violence related to patterns of social-emotional functioning during the transition between middle school and high school.
METHODS: We prospectively interviewed 599 8th graders every 6 months for 2 years. We used trajectory models to explore longitudinal patterns of emotion regulation and nonviolent problem solving and multinomial regression to distinguish how these groups were associated with family context, partner and peer gang involvement, and neighborhood social disorder.
RESULTS: Youth reporting lower neighborhood disorder in 8th grade were more likely to be in the high emotion regulation trajectory group. Youth without exposure to gangs through peers and partners in 8th grade were more likely to be in the high nonviolent problem-solving skills trajectory group. Family cohesion was associated with being in the high trajectory groups for both emotional regulation and problem-solving skills.
CONCLUSION: Emotion regulation and nonviolent problem-solving skills had different associations with the social environment risk factors for violence examined, indicating that mechanisms of influence and strategies for intervention may vary. The association between problem-solving skills and exposure to gangs through peers and partners shows that social norms may be important targets of change. Additionally, interventions with parents that build family cohesion during adolescence may buffer environmental exposures that shape adolescents' ability to practice protective social-emotional behaviors.