Defense Date


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


Clinical Psychology

First Advisor

Albert D. Farrell

Second Advisor

Rosalie Corona

Third Advisor

Joshua M. Langberg

Fourth Advisor

Saba W. Masho

Fifth Advisor

Terri N. Sullivan


Electronic aggression is a rapidly growing focus of research, but it lacks a unifying theoretical framework that is necessary to advance the field. The lack of a theoretical framework has led to inconsistencies in measurement of electronic aggression, making it difficult to draw conclusions across studies. In general, researchers have assumed that electronic aggression constitutes a new form of aggression, a counterpart to physical, verbal, and relational aggression, due to unique features surrounding the perpetration of electronic aggression. Furthermore, researchers have treated electronic aggression as a categorical variable based on the assumption that “cyberbullies” constitute a distinct group of adolescents. However, these assumptions have not been empirically tested. It is possible that media represents an additional dimension on which aggression can be classified. The purpose of this study was to test competing models of aggression. It was hypothesized that form of aggression (i.e., physical, verbal, and relational) would be more salient in explaining relations among aggressive behaviors than media (in-person or electronic). It was also hypothesized that adolescents who perpetrated aggression would not be distinguished by what media they used to perpetrate aggression. Finally, it was hypothesized that a dimensional model would provide a better explanation of aggression than a categorical one. Participants were 1052 sixth, seventh, and eighth grade students from three public schools in a medium-sized city in the southeastern United States. All grades were approximately equally represented (352 sixth grade students, 350 seventh grade students, 340 eighth grade students). The racial composition of the sample was 76% Black or African American, 15% multiracial, 6% European American, and 2% American Indian or Alaska Native. Fifteen percent of participants reported that their ethnicity was Hispanic or Latino. Data were collected in the fall, winter, spring, and summer beginning in the winter of 2010. Due to the cross-sectional nature of this study, one data point was randomly selected for each participant. Among other measures, participants completed the Problem Behavior Frequency Scale - Revised, a self-report measure that assessed the extent to which they engaged in physical, verbal, relational, and electronic aggression. Interestingly, a confirmatory factor analysis that took both media and form into account provided the best model to explain adolescent aggression. A latent profile analysis revealed two groups of adolescents: a moderately aggressive class and a low aggressive class. As hypothesized, neither group was distinguishable by the media they used to perpetrate aggression. Also as hypothesized, a comparison of the confirmatory factor analysis model and the two-class solution of the latent profile analysis indicated that a dimensional model provided the best fit. This study supports a theoretical framework of aggression in which aggression is classified both by form and media.


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