Exposure to violence, pro-violence attitudes, interpersonal relationships, and aggressive behavior
Exposure to violence has been linked to increased aggressive behavior in youth. Some research indicates that this association may be mediated by pro-violence attitudes. However, not all youth who are exposed to violence display higher levels of aggression, therefore, protective factors such as interpersonal relationships within the educational settings can buffer risk for aggression. This study used an integrated moderated mediation model to explore the pathways and relationships between exposure to violence, pro-violence attitudes, interpersonal relationships, and aggression among urban, low-income 3rd – 8th-grade students. Direct and indirect relationships were tested via models 4 and 8 of the PROCESS macro for SPSS. Overall, primary study hypotheses were not supported. Higher rates of neighborhood violence exposure in the year prior to the study were not associated with higher levels of overt aggression and pro-violence attitudes did not mediate that (non)relationship. Furthermore, moderated effects of student-teacher and peer-to-peer relationships were not detected for indirect paths, and indices of moderated mediation were not significant. However, a conditional direct effect of exposure to violence on overt aggression at high and low values of peer-to-peer relationships was present. Specifically, positive peer-to-peer relationships were associated with a decrease in overt aggression as exposure to violence increased, while negative peer-to-peer relationships were associated with an increase in overt aggression as exposure to violence increased. These results suggest that interventions focused on developing and maintaining positive peer-to-peer relationships could be beneficial when integrated into schools serving children from high-crime areas.