Skip to main content Accessibility help

Social cognitions, distress, and leadership self-efficacy: Associations with aggression for high-risk minority youth

  • Stephen S. Leff (a1) (a2) (a3), Courtney N. Baker (a1) (a4), Tracy E. Waasdorp (a1) (a2), Nicole A. Vaughn (a1) (a5), Katherine B. Bevans (a1) (a2) (a3), Nicole A. Thomas (a1) (a6), Terry Guerra (a1) (a6) (a7), Alice J. Hausman (a1) (a8) and W. John Monopoli (a2)...


Urban ethnic minority youth are often exposed to high levels of aggression and violence. As such, many aggression intervention programs that have been designed with suburban nonethnic minority youth have been used or slightly adapted in order to try and meet the needs of high-risk urban youth. The current study contributes to the literature base by examining how well a range of social–cognitive, emotional distress and victimization, and prosocial factors are related to youth aggression in a sample of urban youth. This study utilized data gathered from 109 9- to 15-year-old youth (36.7% male; 84.4% African American) and their parents or caregivers. A series of hierarchical multiple regressions were fit predicting youth aggression from social–cognitive variables, victimization and distress, and prosocial variables, controlling for youth gender and age. Each set of variables explained a significant and unique amount of the variance in youth aggressive behavior. The full model including all predictors accounted for 41% of the variance in aggression. Models suggest that youth with stronger beliefs supportive of violence, youth who experience more overt victimization, and youth who experience greater distress in overtly aggressive situations are likely to be more aggressive. In contrast, youth with higher self-esteem and youth who endorse greater leadership efficacy are likely to be less aggressive. Contrary to hypotheses, hostile attributional bias and knowledge of social information processing, experience of relational victimization, distress in relationally aggressive situations, and community engagement were not associated with aggression. Our study is one of the first to address these important questions for low-income, predominately ethnic minority urban youth, and it has clear implications for adapting aggression prevention programs to be culturally sensitive for urban African American youth.


Corresponding author

Address correspondence and reprint requests to: Stephen S. Leff, Children's Hospital of Philadelphia North, Division of Developmental and Behavioral Pediatrics, 3535 Market Street, Suite 1480, Philadelphia, PA 19104; E-mail:


Hide All
Achenbach, T. M. (1991). Manual for Child Behavior Checklist/4–18 and 1991 Profile. Burlington, VT: University of Vermont, Department of Psychiatry.
Achenbach, T. M., & Rescorla, L. A. (2001). Manual for ASEBA school-age forms & profiles. Burlington, VT: University of Vermont, Research Center for Children, Youth, and Families.
Allen-Meares, P. K., Montgomery, L. K., & Kim, J. S. (2013). School-based social work interventions: A cross-national systematic review. Social Work, 58, 253. doi:10.1093/sw/swt022
Arseneault, L., Walsh, E., Trzesniewski, K., Newcombe, R., Caspi, A., & Moffitt, T. E. (2006). Bullying victimization uniquely contributes to adjustment problems in young children: A nationally representative cohort study. Pediatrics, 118, 130138.
Baker, C. N., Vaughan, N., Barnhart-Wilson, K. A., & Leff, S. S. (2012). Using community-based participatory research to develop an organizational assessment to match after-school sites with a multi-component violence prevention program. Paper presented at the Society for Prevention Research, Washington, DC.
Bennett, M. D., & Fraser, M. W. (2000). Urban violence among African American males: Integrating family, neighborhood, and peer perspectives. Journal of Sociology & Socal Welfare, 27, 93.
Bosworth, K., Espelage, D., DuBay, T., Daytner, G., & Karageorge, K. (2000). Preliminary evaluation of a multimedia violence prevention program for adolescents. American Journal of Health Behavior, 24, 268280.
Bradshaw, C. P., Rodgers, C. R. R., Ghandour, L. A., & Garbarino, J. (2009). Social–cognitive mediators of the association between community violence exposure and aggressive behavior. School Psychology Quarterly, 24, 199210. doi:10.1037/a0017362
Brown, C. A., & Lilford, R. J. (2006). The stepped wedge trial design: A systematic review. BMC Medical Research Methodology, 6, 54. doi:10.1186/1471-2288-6-54
Buka, S. L., Stichick, T. L., Birdthistle, I., & Earls, F. J. (2001). Youth exposure to violence: Prevalence, risks and consequences. American Journal of Orthopsychiatry, 71, 298310. doi:10.1037/0002-9432.71.3.298
Calvete, E., & Orue, I. (2011). The impact of violence exposure on aggressive behavior through social information processing in adolescents. American Journal of Orthopsychiatry, 81, 3850. doi:10.1111/j.1939-0025.2010.01070.x
Casas, J. F., Weigel, S. M., Crick, N. R., Ostrov, J. M., Woods, K. E., Jansen Yeh, E. A., et al. (2006). Early parenting and children's relational and physical aggression in the preschool and home contexts. Journal of Applied Developmental Psychology, 27, 209227. doi:10.1016/j.appdev.2006.02.003
Casat, C. D., Norton, H. J., & Boyle-Whitesel, M. (1999). Identification of elementary school children at risk for disruptive behavioral disturbance: Validation of a combined screening method. Journal of the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry, 38, 12461253.
Crick, N. R. (1997). Engagement in gender normative versus nonnormative forms of aggression: Links to social-psychological adjustment. Developmental Psychology, 33, 610617.
Crick, N. R. (1998). Children's Social Experience Questionnaire—Parent Report (CSEQ-PR). Unpublished manuscript, University of Minnesota.
Crick, N. R. (2006). Children's Social Behavior—Parent Report. Unpublished manuscript, University of Minnesota.
Crick, N. R., & Dodge, K. A. (1994). A review and reformulation of social information processing mechanisms in children's social adjustment. Psychological Bulletin, 115, 74101.
Crick, N. R., & Grotpeter, J. K. (1995). Relational aggression, gender, and social-psychological adjustment. Child Development, 66, 710722.
Crick, N. R., & Grotpeter, J. K. (1996). Children's treatment by peers: Victims of relational and overt aggression. Development and Psychopathology, 8, 367380. doi:10.1017/s0954579400007148
Crick, N. R., Grotpeter, J. K., & Bigbee, M. A. (2002). Relationally and physically aggressive children's intent attributions and feelings of distress for relational and instrumental peer conflicts. Child Development, 73, 11341142.
Dahlberg, L. L., Toal, S. B., & Behrens, C. B. (Eds.). (1998). Measuring violence-related attitudes, beliefs, and behaviors among youth: A compendium of assessment tools. Atlanta, GA: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Center for Injury Prevention and Control.
de Castro, B. O., Veerman, J. W., Koops, W., Bosch, J. D., & Monshouwer, H. J. (2002). Hostile attribution of intent and aggressive behavior: A meta-analysis. Child Development, 73, 916.
Dodge, K. A., & Pettit, G. (2003). A biopsychosocial model of the development of chronic conduct problems in adolescence. Developmental Psychology, 39, 349371.
Donnellan, M. B., Trzesniewski, K. H., & Robins, R. W. (2005). Low self-esteem is related to aggression, antisocial behavior, and delinquency. Psychological Science, 16, 328335. doi:10.1111/j.0956-7976.2005.01535.x
Donnellan, M. B., Trzesniewski, K. H., & Robins, R. W. (2011). Self-esteem: Enduring issues and controversies. In Chamorro-Premuzic, T., von Stumm, S., & Furnham, A. (Eds.), The Wiley–Blackwell handbook of individual differences (pp. 718746). Hoboken, NJ: Wiley–Blackwell.
Edwards, C. H. (2001). Student violence and the moral dimensions of education. Psychology in the Schools, 38, 249257.
Espelage, D. L., Bosworth, K., & Simon, T. R. (2000). Examining the social context of bullying behaviors in early adolescence. Journal of Counseling & Development, 78, 326333. doi:10.1002/j.1556-6676.2000.tb01914.x
Espelage, D. L., Bosworth, K., & Simon, T. R. (2001). Short-term stability and prospective correlates of bullying in middle-school students: An examination of potential demographic, psychosocial, and environmental influences. Violence and Victims, 16, 411426.
Eyberg, S. M., & Pincus, D. (1999). Eyberg Child Behavior Inventory and Sutter–Eyberg Student Behavior Inventory–Revised: Professional manual. Odessa, FL: Psychological Assessment Resources.
Fergusson, D. M., & Horwood, L. J. (2002). Male and female offending trajectories. Development and Psychopathology, 14, 159177.
Fraser, M. W. (1996). Aggressive behavior in childhood and early adolescence: An ecological-developmental perspective on youth violence. Social Work, 41, 347361.
Frey, K. S., Nolen, S. B., Van Schoiack Edstrom, L., & Hirschstein, M. K. (2005). Effects of a school-based social–emotional competence program: Linking children's goals, attributions, and behavior. Journal of Applied Developmental Psychology, 26, 171200. doi:10.1016/j.appdev.2004.12.002
Graham, S., Bellmore, A. D., & Mize, J. (2006). Peer victimization, aggression, and their co-occurrence in middle school: Pathways to adjustment problems. Journal of Abnormal Child Psychology, 34, 363378. doi:10.1007/s10802-006-9030-2
Greenberg, J. (2008). Understanding the vital human quest for self-esteem. Perspectives on Psychological Science, 3, 4855. doi:10.1111/j.1745-6916.2008.00061.x
Gullan, R. L., Power, T. J., & Leff, S. S. (2013). The role of empowerment in a school-based community service program with inner-city, minority youth. Journal of Adolescent Research, 28, 664689. doi:10.1177/0743558413477200
Hanish, L. D., & Guerra, N. G. (2002). A longitudinal analysis of patterns of adjustment following peer victimization. Development and Psychopathology, 14, 6989.
Hare, B. R. (1977). Black and White child self-esteem in social science: An overview. Journal of Negro Education, 46, 141156.
Hausman, A. J., Hohl, B., Hanlon, A. L., Becker, J., Branas, C. C., Hayden, U. T., et al. (2009). Translating community-specified indicators of program success into measurable outcomes. Journal of Public Health Management and Practice, 15, E22E30. doi:10.1097/PHH.0b013e3181af639c
Hodges, E. V. E., & Perry, D. G. (1999). Personal and interpersonal antecedents and consequences of victimization by peers. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 76, 677685. doi:10.1037/0022-3514.76.4.677
Hudley, C., & Graham, S. (1993). An attributional intervention to reduce peer-directed aggression among African-American boys. Child Development, 64, 124138. doi:10.2307/1131441
Hull, P., Kilbourne, B., Reece, M., & Husaini, B. (2008). Community involvement and adolescent mental health: Moderating effects of race/ethnicity and neighborhood disadvantage. Journal of Community Psychology, 36, 534551. doi:10.1002/jcop.20253
Ivanova, M. Y., Achenbach, T. M., Rescorla, L. A., Dumenci, L., Almqvist, F., Bilenberg, N., et al. (2007). The generalizability of the Youth Self-Report syndrome structure in 23 societies. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 75, 729738.
Jolliffe, I. T. (2002). Principal component analysis (2nd ed.). Heidelberg: Springer.
Juvonen, J., & Graham, S. (2001). Peer harassment in school: The plight of the vulnerable and victimized. New York: Guilford Press.
Kacir, C. D., & Gordon, D. A. (1999). Parenting adolescents wisely: The effectiveness of an interactive videodisk parent training program in Appalachia. Child & Family Behavior Therapy, 21, 122.
Kärnä, A., Voeten, M., Little, T. D., Poskiparta, E., Kaljonen, A., & Salmivalli, C. (2011). A large-scale evaluation of the KiVa Antibullying Program: Grades 4–6. Child Development, 82, 311330. doi:10.1111/j.1467-8624.2010.01557.x
Khatri, P., Kupersmidt, J. B., & Patterson, C. (2000). Aggression and peer victimization as predictors of self-reported behavioral and emotional adjustment. Aggressive Behavior, 26, 345358.
Kochenderfer-Ladd, B. (2003). Identification of aggressive and asocial victims and the stability of their peer victimization. Merrill–Palmer Quarterly, 49, 401425.
Leff, S. S., Angelucci, J., Goldstein, A. B., Cardaciotto, L., Paskewich, B., & Grossman, M. B. (2007). Using a participatory action research model to create a school-based intervention program for relationally aggressive girls—The Friend to Friend Program. In Zins, J. E., Elias, M. J., & Maher, C. A. (Eds.), Bullying, victimization, and peer harassment: A handbook of prevention and intervention (pp. 199218). New York: Haworth Press.
Leff, S. S., Cassano, M., MacEvoy, J. P., & Costigan, T. (2010). Initial validation of a knowledge-based measure of social information processing and anger management. Journal of Abnormal Child Psychology, 38, 10071020.
Leff, S. S., Crick, N. R., Angelucci, J., Haye, K., Jawad, A. F., Grossman, M., et al. (2006). Social cognition in context: Validating a cartoon-based attributional measure for urban girls. Child Development, 77, 13511358. doi:10.1111/j.1467-8624.2006.00939.x
Leff, S. S., Gullan, R. L., Paskewich, B. S., Abdul-Kabir, S., Jawad, A. F., Grossman, M., et al. (2009). An initial evaluation of a culturally adapted social problem-solving and relational aggression prevention program for urban African-American relationally aggressive girls. Journal of Prevention & Intervention in the Community, 37, 260274. doi:10.1080/10852350903196274
Leff, S. S., Lefler, E., Khera, G., Paskewich, B., & Jawad, A. (2011). Preliminary examination of a cartoon-based hostile attributional bias measure for urban African American boys. American Journal of Community Psychology. Advance online publication. doi:10.1007/s10464-011-9461-y
Leff, S. S., Thomas, D. E., Vaughn, N. A., Thomas, N. A., MacEvoy, J. P., Freedman, M. A., et al. (2010). Using community-based participatory research to develop the PARTNERS youth violence prevention program. Progress in Community Health Partnerships: Research, Education, and Action, 4, 207216. doi:10.1353/cpr.2010.0005
Leff, S. S., Waasdorp, T. E., Paskewich, B., Gullan, R. L., Jawad, A. F., MacEvoy, J. P., et al. (2010). The Preventing Relational Aggression in Schools Everyday Program: A preliminary evaluation of acceptability and impact. School Psychology Review, 39, 569587.
Lemerise, E. A., & Arsenio, W. F. (2000). An integrated model of emotion processes and cognition in social information processing. Child Development, 71, 107118. doi:10.1111/1467-8624.00124
Linder, J. R., Werner, N. E., & Lyle, K. A. (2010). Automatic and controlled social information processing and relational aggression in young adults. Personality and Individual Differences, 49, 778783. doi:10.1016/j.paid.2010.06.029
Linnenbrink, E. A., & Pintrich, P. R. (2002). Motivation as an enabler for academic success. School Psychology Review, 31, 313327.
Lochman, J. E., & Wells, K. C. (2003). Effectiveness of the coping power program and of classroom intervention with aggressive children: Outcomes at a 1-year follow-up. Behavior Therapy, 34, 493515
Lochman, J. E., & Wells, K. C. (2004). The Coping Power Program for preadolescent aggressive boys and their parents: Outcome effects at the 1-year follow-up. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 72, 571578. doi:10.1037/0022-006x.72.4.571
Loney, J., & Milich, R. (1982). Hyperactivity, inattention, and aggression in clinical practice. In Wolraich, M. & Routh, D. (Eds.), Advances in developmental and behavioral pediatrics (Vol. 3, pp. 113147). Greenwich, CT: JAI.
Martino, S. C., Ellickson, P. L., Klein, D. J., McCaffrey, D., & Edelen, M. O. (2008). Multiple trajectories of physical aggression among adolescent boys and girls. Aggressive Behavior, 34, 6175. doi:10.1002/ab.20215
Nansel, T. R., Overpeck, M., Pilla, R. S., Ruan, W. J., Simons-Morton, B., & Scheidt, P. (2001). Bullying behaviors among US youth: Prevalence and associations with psychosocial adjustment. Journal of the American Medical Association, 285, 20942100.
Olweus, D., & Limber, S. P. (2010). The Olweus Bullying Prevention Program: Implementation and evaluation over two decades. In Jimerson, S. R., Swearer, S. M., & Espelage, D. L. (Eds.), Handbook of bullying in schools: An international perspective (pp. 377401). New York: Routledge/Taylor & Francis.
Oman, R. F., McLeroy, K. R., Vesely, S., Aspy, C. B., Smith, D. W., & Penn, D. A. (2002). An adolescent age group approach to examining youth risk behaviors. American Journal of Health Promotion, 16, 167176.
Oman, R. F., Vesely, S. K., McLeroy, K. R., Harris-Wyatt, V., Aspy, C. B., Rodine, S., et al. (2002). Reliability and validity of the Youth Asset Survey (YAS). Journal of Adolescent Health, 31, 247255.
Ostrov, J. M., & Bishop, C. M. (2008). Preschoolers' aggression and parent–child conflict: A multiinformant and multimethod study. Journal of Experimental Child Psychology, 99, 309322. doi:10.1016/j.jecp.2008.01.001
Pelham, W. E. Jr., Milich, R., Murphy, D. A., & Murphy, H. A. (1989). Normative Data on the IOWA Conners Teacher Rating Scale. Journal of Clinical Child Psychology, 18, 259.
Pettit, G. S., & Mize, J. (2007). Social–cognitive processes in the development of antisocial and violent behavior. In Flannery, D. J., Vazsonyi, A. T., & Waldman, I. D. (Eds.), The Cambridge handbook of violent behavior and aggression (pp. 322343). New York: Cambridge University Press.
Reid, R., Casat, C. D., Norton, H. J., Anastopoulos, A. D., & Temple, E. P. (2001). Using behavior rating scales for ADHD across ethnic groups: The IOWA Conners. Journal of Emotional and Behavioral Disorders, 9, 210218. doi:10.1177/106342660100900401
Reijntjes, A., Kamphuis, J. H., Prinzie, P., Boelen, P. A., & Telch, M. J. (2011). Prospective linkages between peer victimization and externalizing problems in children: A meta-analysis. Aggressive Behavior, 37, 215222. doi:10.1002/ab.20374
Robers, S., Kemp, J., Truman, J., & Snyder, T. D. (2013). Indicators of school crime and safety: 2012 (NCES Report 2013-036/NCJ 241446). Retrieved from
Samson, J. E., Ojanen, T., & Hollo, A. (2012). Social goals and youth aggression: Meta-analysis of prosocial and antisocial goals. Social Development, 21, 645666. doi:10.1111/j.1467-9507.2012.00658.x
Schaeffer, C. M., Petras, H., Ialongo, N., Poduska, J., & Kellam, S. (2003). Modeling growth in boys' aggressive behavior across elementary school: Links to later criminal involvement, conduct disorder, and antisocial personality disorder. Developmental Psychology, 39, 10201035. doi:10.1037/0012-1649.39.6.1020
Shoemaker, A. L. (1980). The Hare Self-Esteem Scale. Educational and Psychological Measurement, 40, 495501.
Stevenson, H. C. (1997). “Missed, dissed, and pissed”: Making meaning of neighborhood risk, fear and anger management in urban black youth. Cultural Diversity and Mental Health, 3, 3752. doi:
Stoddard, S. A., Henly, S. J., Sieving, R. E., & Bolland, J. (2011). Social connections, trajectories of hopelessness, and serious violence in impoverished urban youth. Journal of Youth and Adolescence, 40, 278295. doi:10.1007/s10964-010-9580-z
Sullivan, T. N., Farrell, A. D., & Kliewer, W. (2006). Peer victimization in early adolescence: Association between physical and relational victimization and drug use, aggression, and delinquent behaviors among urban middle school students. Development and Psychopathology, 18, 119137. doi:10.1017/s095457940606007x
Tackett, J. L., & Ostrov, J. M. (2010). Measuring relational aggression in middle childhood in a multi-informant multi-method study. Journal of Psychopathology and Behavioral Assessment, 32, 490500. doi:10.1007/s10862-010-9184-7
Teitelman, A., McDonald, C. C., Wiebe, D. J., Thomas, N., Guerra, T., Kassam-Adams, N., et al. (2010). Youth's strategies for staying safe and coping with the stress of living in violent communities. Journal of Community Psychology, 38, 874885. doi:10.1002/jcop.20402
Thompson, R., Tabone, J. K., Litrownik, A. J., Briggs, E. C., Hussey, J. M., English, D. J., et al. (2011). Early adolescent risk behavior outcomes of childhood externalizing behavioral trajectories. Journal of Early Adolescence, 31, 234257. doi:10.1177/0272431609361203
Trzesniewski, K. H., Donnellan, M. B., & Moffitt, T. E. (2006). Low self-esteem during adolescence predicts poor health, criminal behavior, and limited economic prospects during adulthood. Developmental Psychology, 42, 381390. doi:10.1037/0012-1649.42.2.381
Vacek, K. R., Coyle, L. D., & Vera, E. M. (2010). Stress, self-esteem, hope, optimism, and well-being in urban, ethnic minority adolescents. Journal of Multicultural Counseling and Development, 38, 99111.
Vasey, M. W., Dalgleish, T., & Silverman, W. K. (2003). Research on information-processing factors in child and adolescent psychopathology: A critical commentary. Journal of Clinical Child & Adolescent Psychology, 32, 8193.
Verhulst, F. C., Ende, J. V. D., & van der Ende, J. (1992). Agreement between parents' reports and adolescents' self-reports of problem behavior. Journal of Child Psychology & Psychiatry, 33, 10111023.
Weber, D., & Robinson Kurpius, S. (2011). The importance of self-beliefs on relational aggression of college students. Journal of Interpersonal Violence, 26, 27352743. doi:10.1177/0886260510388287
Webster-Stratton, C., Hollinsworth, T., & Kolpacoff, M. (1989). The long-term effectiveness and clinical significance of three cost-effective training programs for families with conduct-problem children. Journal of Consulting & Clinical Psychology, 57, 550553. doi:10.1037/0022-006x.57.4.550
Wolke, D., Copeland, W. E., Angold, A., & Costello, E. J. (2013). Impact of bullying in childhood on adult health, wealth, crime, and social outcomes. Psychological Science. doi:10.1177/0956797613481608

Social cognitions, distress, and leadership self-efficacy: Associations with aggression for high-risk minority youth

  • Stephen S. Leff (a1) (a2) (a3), Courtney N. Baker (a1) (a4), Tracy E. Waasdorp (a1) (a2), Nicole A. Vaughn (a1) (a5), Katherine B. Bevans (a1) (a2) (a3), Nicole A. Thomas (a1) (a6), Terry Guerra (a1) (a6) (a7), Alice J. Hausman (a1) (a8) and W. John Monopoli (a2)...


Altmetric attention score

Full text views

Total number of HTML views: 0
Total number of PDF views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

Abstract views

Total abstract views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between <date>. This data will be updated every 24 hours.

Usage data cannot currently be displayed