The level of crime in South Africa as reflected by crime statistics affects a high number of
adolescents. Trauma and stress associated with interpersonal violence can adversely affect
the neurobiology of the individual, since social, emotional and cognitive influences interact
in multifaceted ways with neurobiological systems to affect every-day adaptive functioning.
This study was embarked upon to determine the difference in the expression of personality
between adolescents exposed to community related interpersonal violence and those not
exposed to such violence. The 183 research participants were selected from a group of 335
grade 12 learners from a single secondary school in a middle class community. The
participants were placed into two sample groups by means of purposive sampling as
follows: Sample 1 consisted of all the research participants that reported exposure to
community related interpersonal violence during the past 5 years on the self-reporting
questionnaire (n = 93). The research participants that did not report exposure to such
violence formed Sample 2 (n = 90).
Reflecting on the adolescent’s emotional, adaptive functioning and referring to high levels
of anxiety and feelings of worthlessness, certain factors of the 16PF questionnaire were
predicted to show a statistical significant difference after exposure to community related
interpersonal violence after a period of 3 to 5 years. To assess the differences in personality
profiles of adolescents exposed to community related interpersonal violence and those not
exposed to violence, a MANOVA was used in analysing 16PF results. There were
statistically significant differences between the two groups on Factor G (rule
consciousness), Factor I (emotional sensitivity) and Factor Q4 (anxiety). This indicated that adolescents exposed to incidents of community related interpersonal violence are inclined to
experience more tension, are emotional volatile, depressed and anxious. They tend to be
more sensitive to environmental stressors and are likely to give up easily.
The group exposed to interpersonal violence (Sample 1) experienced higher levels of PTSD
as assessed with the PSD Questionnaire than the group that was not exposed to interpersonal
violence (sample 2). The personality profiles of three groups (Sample 1 with high PTSD,
Sample 1 with low PTSD and Sample 2) were compared by means of a MANOVA to test
whether adolescents who experience high levels of PTSD express their personality different
from others. The results identify differences in the expression of personality between
adolescents of Sample 1 experiencing higher levels of PTSD and the adolescents who did
not experience community related interpersonal violence (sample 2) on Factors G- (Selfindulgent
and disregards obligations to people), I + ( Perception might be emotionally
influenced) and Q4 + (Elevated levels of anxiety).
The coping style (positive or negative coping) of adolescents exposed to community related
interpersonal violence was assessed using the Kidcope. This was done to examine the
possible influence of coping on the development of posttraumatic stress and differences in
the expression of personality. There were no correlations between positive and negative
coping and the level of PTSD symptoms and the 16PF. The research could therefore not
identify coping as a medicating variable in the development of PTSD and differences in the
expression of personality. However, research is required to evaluate coping closer to the
time of the actual event.
The results of this research are a clear indication that the experience of community-related
violence has serious implications for the well-being and development of the personality of
adolescents. Violence-exposed adolescents may experience symptoms characteristic of
PTSD, including significant difficulty regulating one’s emotions and behaviour impacting
on their social, cognitive, physiological and emotional functioning.
The original target group for this study was the middle class income population and suburb
with relatively good security. The sample was drawn from a typical middleclass
environment and adolescents from communities with less protection may present different
results if sampled for similar research.