Impact of a childhood history of physical abuse and social support on aggressive behavior and attributions in male adolescents
Tolliver, Randi M.
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Existing research suggests that experiencing childhood physical abuse is associated with aggressive behavior and that aggressive children tend to make more misattributions about social situations. Research also suggests that an individual?s social support is a significant factor in determining the effects of childhood physical abuse. The present study, based on a social interactional, social-information processing model of child physical abuse and aggression, examined the difference between males with a childhood history of physical child abuse and low levels of social support and males without a childhood history of physical child abuse and high levels of social support on measures of aggression and attributions of hostile intent, internal/external, stable/unstable, global/specific, and evaluations of wrongness. Thirty males were selected from a larger pool of two hundred males and matched on five demographic variables: 15 with a childhood history of physical abuse and low levels of social support and 15 without a childhood history of physical abuse and high levels of social support. Differences between the two groups on measures of aggressive behavior and attributions were analyzed using two independent-samples t-test procedures. As hypothesized, there exists a significant difference between the two groups on levels of aggression. Significant differences were also found between the two groups on internal versus external attributions. No significant differences were found between the two groups on measures of hostile intent/unintentional, stable/unstable, global/specific, or evaluations of wrongness. The difference found between the two groups on aggression is consistent with existing research. The lack of findings related to attributions may be due to the fact that the present study, focused solely on cognitive-based attributional styles, failed to examine affect, another factor that may contribute to aggression and attributional styles. Findings suggest that the cumulative factors of a childhood history of physical abuse and low levels of social support are markers for later aggressive behavior. Although future investigations need to be conducted to examine the impact of a childhood history of physical abuse and social support on various cognitions, emotions and behaviors, the present study is likely to further clinical understanding of aggressive male adolescents.