Defense Date


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Science


Clinical Psychology

First Advisor

Albert Farrell


Beliefs about aggression play a key role in how youth interpret and respond to social situations and are related to aggressive behavior. Adolescents may report beliefs supporting aggression and engage in aggression due to reinforcement within their environment, rather than due to maladaptive social information-processing (SIP) biases. The purpose of this study was to examine adolescents’ patterns of beliefs about aggression and how these patterns relate to SIP. This study used latent class analysis (LCA), the Articulated Thoughts in Simulated Situations paradigm, and a Problem Solving Interview to examine differences in SIP between adolescents with varying patterns of beliefs about aggression. Participants included 435 sixth and seventh grade students (45% male, 63% African American, 22% Caucasian) from two urban schools and a semi-rural school. A LCA of the beliefs about aggression measure identified four classes of adolescents: (a) a Beliefs Against Fighting (Against) class that opposed the use of aggression (21% of the sample); (b) a Fighting is Sometimes Necessary (Sometimes) class that endorsed beliefs that fighting is sometimes inevitable (31%); (c) a Beliefs Supporting Fighting (Support) class that supported aggression across multiple contexts (33%); and (d) a Low Responders class that disagreed with all items (12%). Differences among classes were found on gender and race/ethnicity. As hypothesized, significant differences were found such that the Sometimes and Against classes differed from the Support class in reporting that it is ok to fight in response to non-physical aggression and effectiveness ratings of physical aggression and effective nonviolent responses. The Sometimes class was also less likely than the Support class, but more likely than the Against class to report behavioral intentions for aggression, revenge goals, and aggression as a first response to problem situations. Contrary to the hypotheses, classes did not differ in several areas, including hostile and benign intent attributions and generation of prosocial responses. These differences suggest the need for using prevention approaches that address multiple patterns of beliefs about aggression, such as interventions that improve SIP for adolescents with beliefs supporting aggression and universal prevention programs that address school climate for adolescents with beliefs that fighting is sometimes necessary.


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Is Part Of

VCU University Archives

Is Part Of

VCU Theses and Dissertations

Date of Submission

August 2013