Defense Date


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy



First Advisor

Terri N. Sullivan

Second Advisor

Everett Worthington

Third Advisor

Julie Linker

Fourth Advisor

Geraldine Lotze

Fifth Advisor

Kevin Sutherland


High prevalence rates exist for physical (i.e., threatened or actual physical force) and relational (i.e., actions meant to harm another’s social relationships) aggression within early adolescence, and these behaviors lead to detrimental social, physical, and mental health outcomes. Thus, there is a need to identify risk and protective processes related to these subtypes of aggression, especially those that can inform violence prevention efforts. Prior studies including early adolescents have shown emotion dysregulation to be a risk factor for aggression. However, few studies have incorporated the emotional competence process of poor emotional awareness, which may be a risk factor for emotion dysregulation and, in turn, for aggression. Furthermore, little research has assessed relations between subtypes of emotion dysregulation (i.e., anger and sadness) and physical and relational aggression. The current study examined longitudinal relations between poor emotional awareness and these subtypes of emotion dysregulation and aggression, as well as concurrent pathways between the emotion dysregulation and aggression variables. Exploratory tests for gender differences were also conducted. Rating scales were collected from 528 sixth graders (51% girls, 49% boys; missing data n = 8) and their teachers over a six month period in the fall and spring of the school year. Across the full sample, 65% of students identified as African-American, 19% European-American, 2%, Hispanic Latino, 11% Multiracial, and 3% as “Other”(missing data n = 8). Results indicated no significant differences by gender in the strength of relations between study variables. Poor emotional awareness was not directly related to changes in subsequent frequency of physical or relational aggression. However, poor emotional awareness at Time 1 was associated with later rates of anger and sadness dysregulation. Furthermore, an indirect effect was found for poor emotional awareness on both physical and relational aggression via anger dysregulation, and this was true for student- and teacher-rated outcomes. Sadness dysregulation showed a negative concurrent association with teacher-rated physical aggression; and there was an indirect effect of poor emotional awareness on teacher-rated physical aggression via sadness dysregulation. Study findings have important implications for theoretical treatises, youth violence prevention programs, and future directions for research, which are all discussed.


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