Child Psychiatry & Human Development

, Volume 45, Issue 6, pp 736–745

The Role of Violence Exposure and Negative Affect in Understanding Child and Adolescent Aggression

Original Article


Aggressive behaviors in youth tend to be relatively stable across the lifespan and are associated with maladaptive functioning later in life. Researchers have recently identified that both violence exposure and negative affective experiences are related to the development of aggressive behaviors. Children exposed to violence also often experience negative affect (NA) in the form of anxiety and depression. Bringing these findings together, the current study used a clinical sample of youth (N = 199; ages 7–17 years) referred to a psychiatric residential treatment facility to examine the specific contributions of NA and exposure to violence on the development of aggressive behaviors in youth. Using structural equation modeling, both NA and recent exposure to violence significantly predicted aggressive behaviors. More importantly, negative affect partially mediated the relationship between exposure to violence and aggression. Implications of these findings from a clinical perspective and future directions for research on aggression are discussed.


Aggression Negative affect Violence Mediation 


  1. 1.
    Finkelhor D, Turner H, Ormrod R, Hamby SL (2009) Violence, abuse, and crime exposure in a national sample of children and youth. Pediatrics 124:1–13CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. 2.
    Finkelhor D, Ormrod R, Turner H, Hamby SL (2005) The victimization of children and youth: a comprehensive, national survey. Child Maltreat 10:5–25PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. 3.
    Saunders BE (2003) Understanding children exposed to violence: toward an integration of overlapping fields. J Interpers Violence 18:356–376CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. 4.
    Farver JM, Xu Y, Eppe S, Fernandez A, Schwartz D (2005) Community violence, family conflict, and preschoolers’ socioemotional functioning. Dev Psychol 41:160–170PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. 5.
    Margolin G, Vickerman KA, Oliver PH, Gordis EB (2010) Violence exposure in multiple interpersonal domains: cumulative and differential effects. J Adolesc Health 47:198–205PubMedCentralPubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. 6.
    Maikovich AK, Jaffee SR, Odgers CL, Gallop R (2008) Effects of family violence on psychopathology symptoms in children previously exposed to maltreatment. Child Dev 79:1498–1512PubMedCentralPubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. 7.
    Oravecz LM, Koblinsky SA, Randolph SM (2008) Community violence, interpartner conflict, parenting, and social support as predictors of the social competence of African American preschool children. J Black Psychol 34:192–216CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. 8.
    Reebye P, Moretti M (2005) Perspectives on childhood and adolescent aggression. Can Child Adolesc Psychiatr Rev 14:1–2Google Scholar
  9. 9.
    Arseneault L, Bowes L, Shakoor S (2010) Bullying victimization in youths and mental health problems: ‘much ado about nothing’. Psychol Med 40:717–729PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. 10.
    Hawker DS, Boulton MJ (2000) Twenty years’ research on peer victimization and psychosocial maladjustment: a meta-analytic review of cross-sectional studies. J Child Psychol Psychiatry 41:441–455PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. 11.
    Oliver C, Candappa M (2003) Tackling bullying: listening to the views of children and young people. Department for Education and Skills, NottinghamGoogle Scholar
  12. 12.
    Department for Children, Schools and Families (2009) Safe from bullying: guidance for local authorities and other strategic leaders on reducing bullying in the community. Department for Children, Schools and Families, NottinghamGoogle Scholar
  13. 13.
    Weiler BL, Widom CS (1996) Psychopathy and violent behaviour in abused and neglected young adults. Crim Behav Ment Health 6:253–271CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. 14.
    Lang S, Af Klinteberg B, Alm PO (2002) Adult psychopathy and violent behavior in males with early neglect and abuse. Acta Psychiatr Scand 106:93–100CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. 15.
    Schaeffer CM, Petras H, Ialongo N, Poduska J, Kellam S (2003) Modeling growth in boys aggressive behavior across elementary school: links to later criminal involvement, conduct disorder, and antisocial personality disorder. Dev Psychol 39:1020–1035PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. 16.
    Bradshaw CP, Schaeffer CM, Petras H, Ialongo N (2010) Predicting negative life outcomes from early aggressive-disruptive behavior trajectories: gender differences in maladaptation across life domains. J Youth Adolesc 39:953–966PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. 17.
    Malik NM (2008) Exposure to domestic and community violence in a nonrisk sample: associations with child functioning. J Interpers Violence 23:490–504PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. 18.
    Cooley-Quille MR, Turner SM, Beidel DC (1995) The emotional impact of children’s exposure to community violence: a preliminary study. J Am Acad Child Adolesc Psychiatry 34:1362–1368PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. 19.
    Cooley-Strickland MR, Quille TJ, Griffin RS, Stuart EA, Bradshaw CP, Furr-Holden D (2009) Community violence and youth: affect, behavior, substance use, and academics. Clin Child Fam Psychol Rev 12:127–156PubMedCentralPubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. 20.
    Bandura A (1973) Aggression: a social learning analysis. Prentice-Hall, Englewood Cliffs, NJGoogle Scholar
  21. 21.
    Patterson GR (2002) Etiology and treatment of child and adolescent antisocial behavior. Behav Anal Today 3:133–144Google Scholar
  22. 22.
    Guerra NG, Huesmann R, Spindler A (2003) Community violence exposure, social cognition, and aggression among urban elementary school children. Child Dev 74:1561–1576PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. 23.
    Bradshaw CP, Rodgers CR, Ghandour LA, Garbarino J (2009) Social-cognitive mediators of the association between community violence exposure and aggressive behavior. Sch Psychol Q 24:199–210CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. 24.
    Kashani JH, Deuser W, Reid JC (1991) Aggression and anxiety: a new look at an old notion. J Am Acad Child Adolesc Psychiatry 30:218–223PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. 25.
    Musher-Eizenman DR, Boxer P, Danner S, Dubow EF, Goldstein SE, Heretick DML (2004) Social-cognitive mediators of the relation of environmental and emotion regulation factors to children’s aggression. Aggress Behav 30:389–408CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. 26.
    Schwartz D, Gorman A (2003) Community violence exposure and children’s academic functioning. J Educ Psychol 95:163–173CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. 27.
    Buckner JC, Beardslee WR, Bassuk EL (2004) Exposure to violence and low-income children’s mental health: direct, moderated, and mediated relations. Am J Orthopsychiatry 74:413–423PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. 28.
    Boyd RC, Wooden TD, Munro MA, Liu T, Ten Have T (2008) The impact of community violence exposure on anxiety in children of mothers with depression. J Child Adolesc Trauma 1:287–299PubMedCentralPubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. 29.
    Loney B, Lima E, Butler M (2006) Trait affectivity and nonreferred adolescent conduct problems. J Clin Child Adolesc Psychol 35:329–336PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. 30.
    Clark LA, Watson D (1991) Tripartite model of anxiety and depression: psychometric evidence and taxometric implications. J Abnorm Psychol 100:316–336PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. 31.
    Ebesutani C, Ale C, Leubbe A, Viana A, Young J (2011) A practical guide for implementing evidence-based assessment in a psychiatric residential treatment facility: translating theory into practice. Resid Treat Child Youth 28:211–231CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. 32.
    Nakamura BJ, Ebesutani C, Bernstein A, Chorpita BF (2009) A psychometric analysis of the child behavior checklist DSM-oriented scales. J Psychopathol Behav Assess 31:178–189CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. 33.
    Singer MI, Anglin TM, Song LY, Lunghofer L (1995) Adolescents’ exposure to violence and associated symptoms of psychological trauma. JAMA 273:477–482PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. 34.
    Bryant FB, Smith BD (2001) Refining the architecture of aggression: a measurement model for the Buss–Perry Aggression Questionnaire. J Res Pers 35:138–167CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. 35.
    Diamond PM, Magaletta PR (2006) The short-form Buss–Perry Aggression Questionnaire (BPAQ-SF): a validation study with federal offenders. Assessment 13:227–240PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. 36.
    Laurent J, Cantanzaro S, Rudolph K, Lambert S, Osborne L, Gathright T et al (1999) A measure of positive and negative affect for children: scale development and preliminary validation. Psychol Assess 11:326–338CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. 37.
    Lonigan CJ, Phillips B, Hooe E (2003) Relations of positive and negative affectivity to anxiety and depression in children: evidence from a latent variable longitudinal study. J Consult Clin Psychol 71:465–481PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. 38.
    Nunnally J, Bernstein I (1994) Psychometric Theory, 3rd edn. McGraw-Hill, New York, NYGoogle Scholar
  39. 39.
    Little RJA, Rubin DB (1987) Statistical analysis with missing data. Wiley, New York, NYGoogle Scholar
  40. 40.
    Garson DG (2012) Missing values analysis and data imputation. Statistical Publishing Associates, Asheboro, NCGoogle Scholar
  41. 41.
    Muthén B, Muthén L (2007) Mplus 4.21. Muthén & Muthén, Los Angeles, CAGoogle Scholar
  42. 42.
    Miller GA, Chapman JP (2001) Misunderstanding analysis of covariance. J Abnorm Psychol 110:40–48PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. 43.
    Chorpita BF (2002) The tripartite model and dimensions of anxiety and depression: an examination of structure in a large school sample. J Abnorm Child Psychol 30:177–190PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  44. 44.
    Anderson JC, Gerbing DW (1988) Structural equation modeling in practice: a review and recommended two-step approach. Psychol Bull 103:411–423CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  45. 45.
    Byrne BM (1989) A primer for LISREL. Springer, New York, NYCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  46. 46.
    Bentler PM (1990) Comparative fit indices in structural models. Psychol Bull 107:238–246PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  47. 47.
    Hu LT, Bentler PM (1999) Cutoff criteria for fit indexes in covariance structure analysis: conventional criteria versus new alternatives. Struct Equ Modeling 6:1–55CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  48. 48.
    Browne MW, Cudeck R (1993) Alternative ways of assessing model fit. Sage Focus Editions, 154:136Google Scholar
  49. 49.
    Schermelleh-Engel K, Moosbrugger H (2003) Evaluating the fit of structural equation models: test of significance and descriptive goodness-of-fit measures. Methods Psychol Res Online 8:23–74Google Scholar
  50. 50.
    Baron RM, Kenny DA (1986) The moderator-mediator variable distinction in social psychological research: conceptual, strategic, and statistical considerations. J Pers Soc Psychol 51:1173–1182PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  51. 51.
    Efron B (1987) Better bootstrap confidence intervals. J Am Stat Assoc 82:171–185CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  52. 52.
    Colder CR, Mott J, Levy S, Flay B (2000) Am J Community Psychol 28:83–103PubMedCentralPubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  53. 53.
    Schaeffer CM, Petras H, Ialongo N, Masyn KE, Hubbard S, Poduska J et al (2006) A comparison of girls’ and boys’ aggressive-disruptive behavior trajectories across elementary school: prediction to young adult antisocial outcomes. J Consult Clin Psychol 74:500–510PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  54. 54.
    Carver CS, Harmon-Jones E (2009) Anger is an approach-related affect: evidence and implications. Psychol Bull 135:183–204PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  55. 55.
    Harmon-Jones E, Sigelman J (2001) State anger and prefrontal brain activity: evidence that insult-related relative left prefrontal activation is associated with experienced anger and aggression. J Pers Soc Psychol 80:797–803PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  56. 56.
    Blanchard DC, Blanchard RJ (1984) Affect and aggression: an animal model applied to human behavior. Adv Study Aggress 1:1–62CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  57. 57.
    Blanchard DC, Blanchard RJ (2003) What can animal aggression research tell us about human aggression? Horm Behav 44:171–177PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  58. 58.
    Barlow DH (2000) Unraveling the mysteries of anxiety and its disorders from the perspective of emotion theory. Am Psychol 55:1247–1263PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  59. 59.
    Beardslee WR (2003) Out of the darkened room: when a parent is depressed: Protecting the children and strengthening the family. Little Brown & Co, Boston, MAGoogle Scholar
  60. 60.
    Kilpatrick DG, Saunders BE, Smith DW (2003) Research in brief: youth victimization: prevalence and implications (NCJ 194972). National Institute of Justice, U.S. Department of Justice, Washington, DCGoogle Scholar
  61. 61.
    Boyd R, Cooley M, Lambert S, Ialongo N (2003) First grade child risk behaviors for community violence in middle school. J Community Psychol 31:297–314CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  62. 62.
    McAlister-Groves B, Zuckerman B, Marans B, Cohen D (1993) Silent victims: children who witness violence. JAMA 269:262–264CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  63. 63.
    Aisenberg E, Trickett PK, Mennen FE, Saltzman W, Zayas LH (2007) Maternal depression and adolescent behavior problems: an examination of mediation among immigrant Latino mothers and their adolescent children exposed to community violence. J Interpers Violence 22:1227–1249PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  64. 64.
    Cooley-Quille M, Boyd RC, Frantz E, Walsch J (2001) Emotional and psychophysiological impact of exposure to community violence in urban adolescents. J Child Clin Psychol 30:199–206CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  65. 65.
    Crouch JL (2000) Income, race/ethnicity, and exposure to violence in youth: results from the national survey of adolescents. J Community Psychol 28:625–641CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  66. 66.
    Briere J, Elliott DM (2003) Prevalence and psychological sequelae of self-reported childhood physical and sexual abuse in a general population sample of men and women. Child Abuse Negl 27:1205–1222PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of PsychologyDuksung Women’s UniversitySeoulKorea
  2. 2.Tennessee Valley Healthcare System, Alvin C. York VAMCMurfreesboroUSA
  3. 3.University of MississippiUniversityUSA

Personalised recommendations