This Is AuburnElectronic Theses and Dissertations

Context-Specific Aggression: Prevalence and Outcomes of Aggression in the Home and at School in Childhood and Early Adolescence




VanDenBerg, Carlynn

Type of Degree

PhD Dissertation


Human Development and Family Science


Consistently elevated levels of aggression in childhood are problematic; however, the unique effects of aggression that occurs primarily at home or at school (i.e., context-specific aggression) are not well understood. The following three aims were examined in this prospective, longitudinal, multi-informant study: 1) to assess the prevalence of context-specific aggression in childhood 2) to examine the extent to which child aggression in one context (e.g., home) predicts early adolescent aggression in the other context (e.g., school), and 3) to test the unique effects of aggression at home and school and outcomes of context-specific aggression in childhood and early adolescence. Aggression at home was assessed via mother and father reports in kindergarten through second grade, and mother reports from sixth through eighth grade. Aggression at school was assessed with teacher and peer reports from kindergarten through second grade, and via teacher reports from sixth through eighth grade. Outcomes of interest included records of academic achievement in third and ninth grade, self-reported peer adjustment in third grade, and self-reported internalizing and peer adjustment in ninth grade. Correlation and latent profile analyses were used to detect convergence across contexts as well as proportions of participants who displayed cross-context and context-specific aggression. Cross-lagged panel analysis with latent aggression variables were used to examine within- and cross-context prediction from childhood to early adolescence. Polynomial regression with response surface analysis was used to assess outcomes of aggression that occurred primarily at home or at school during childhood. Results revealed that aggressive behavior is moderately correlated across home and school contexts and that aggressive behavior commonly occurs primarily at home or at school, though the largest proportion of children displayed low levels of aggression across both contexts. Aggressive behavior was highly stable within each context, but aggression at home during childhood did not predict higher aggression at school during early adolescence, nor did aggression at school during childhood predict higher aggression at home during early adolescence. Of particular interest were the unique effects of aggression at home and at school. A discrepancy effect for academic achievement in third grade emerged, with a sharper decline in academic achievement apparent as levels of aggression at home and school grew increasingly discrepant from each other. Home-based aggression in childhood predicted poorer self-reported peer adjustment in early adolescence. Evidence for the association between home-based aggression in childhood and internalizing problems in early adolescence was mixed: Home-based aggression predicted internalizing problems in response surface analyses with factor scores, but not in analyses with latent variables. The present study provides evidence that aggressive behavior during childhood in only one setting is relatively common and may be worthy of intervention to disrupt longer term negative developmental outcomes.