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Family Violence, Sibling, and Peer Aggression During Adolescence: Associations With Behavioral Health Outcomes

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This study examined whether there are links between behavioral health outcomes and experiences of family violence, sibling, and peer aggression during adolescence.


Bullying and sibling aggression can appear as similar behavior, although the latter is comparatively understudied. Aligned with the Theory of Intergenerational Transmission of Violence, research suggests that exposure to family violence increases an individual's risk for perpetrating violence in his/her own future relationships. In addition, Problem Behavior Theory suggests that engaging in one problem behavior (e.g., bullying) increases the likelihood of engaging in other problem behavior (e.g., substance use). In Phase 1, the current study of U.S. middle school students examined how exposure to family violence predicted membership in latent classes of bullying and sibling aggression perpetration (N = 894, sampled from four middle schools). In Phase 2, the study used mixture modeling to understand how latent classes of family violence, sibling aggression, and bullying predicted future substance use, mental health outcomes, and deviant behavior later in high school. Results yielded four profiles of peer and sibling aggression: high all, high sibling aggression, high peer aggression, and low all aggression. Youth who reported witnessing more family violence at home were significantly more likely to fall into the sibling aggression only and high all classes, compared to the low all class. Phase 2 results also identified four classes: a high all class, a sibling aggression and family violence class, a peer aggression class, and a low all class. Individuals in the high all class were more likely to experience several unfavorable outcomes (substance use, depression, delinquency) compared to other classes. This study provides evidence for pathways from witnessing violence to perpetrating aggression across multiple contexts and to developing other deleterious mental and behavioral health outcomes. These findings highlight the negative impact family violence can have on child development, providing support for a cross-contextual approach for programming aimed at developing relationships skills. (publisher abstract modified)

Date Published: January 1, 2020