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

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  22 July 2014

Stephen S. Leff
Philadelphia Collaborative Violence Prevention Center Children's Hospital of Philadelphia Violence Prevention Initiative University of Pennsylvania Perelman School of Medicine
Courtney N. Baker
Philadelphia Collaborative Violence Prevention Center Tulane University
Tracy E. Waasdorp
Philadelphia Collaborative Violence Prevention Center Children's Hospital of Philadelphia Violence Prevention Initiative
Nicole A. Vaughn
Philadelphia Collaborative Violence Prevention Center Drexel University
Katherine B. Bevans
Philadelphia Collaborative Violence Prevention Center Children's Hospital of Philadelphia Violence Prevention Initiative University of Pennsylvania Perelman School of Medicine
Nicole A. Thomas
Philadelphia Collaborative Violence Prevention Center Philadelphia Area Research Community Coalition
Terry Guerra
Philadelphia Collaborative Violence Prevention Center Philadelphia Area Research Community Coalition AchieveAbility
Alice J. Hausman
Philadelphia Collaborative Violence Prevention Center Temple University
W. John Monopoli
Children's Hospital of Philadelphia Violence Prevention Initiative
E-mail address:


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.

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