A longitudinal study of violent behavior in mid to late adolescence: familial factors and the development of internal controls

Tate, David Carine, Department of Psychology, University of Virginia
Allen, Joseph, E0:AS-Psychology, University of Virginia
Monahan, John, E1:LW-Law School Central, University of Virginia
Reppucci, Nicholas, University of Virginia
Wilson, Melvin, E0:AS-Psychology, University of Virginia

Meaningful change occurs in both the nature and level of violent and aggressive behavior in late adolescence. Understanding this change is a critical step needed to fortify prevention and intervention efforts aimed at reducing the incidence of adolescent violent behavior. Such efforts must seek both to target potentially violent adolescents and to select the most appropriate interventions. In order to make advances towards the achievement of these goals, two questions must be addressed: (1) Based on present information, who is at elevated risk for exhibiting violent behavior in the future?; and (2) What processes are central to producing increases or decreases in violent behavior? The overarching objective of this research project was to address these two questions using multiple methods and multiple measures to assess the quality of functioning within different domains of adolescents' lives. Individual and familial predictors of violent behavior were assessed within a socioeconomically diverse, at-risk sample of 138 adolescents. The major individual factor examined within the current study was internal controls, defined broadly as cognitive and affective resources that support regulated responses and behaviors; it was operationalized in terms of ego development, self-restraint, and self-efficacy expectations. Family factors examined in this study included parental characteristics (internal controls), parenting practices (monitoring, physical aggression, psychological overcontrol), and family relationship characteristics (conflict frequency, autonomous-relatedness). Four major findings emerged. First, lack of internal controls in mid-adolescence predicted violent behavior in late adolescence. The second finding was that mothers' lack of internal controls as measured at Time 1 predicted violence and serious violence at Time 2. Third, ineffective maternal parenting practices and coercive mother-teen relationship characteristics in mid-adolescence each predicted teens' violent behavior in late adolescence. However, these effects were mediated by adolescent internal controls. Fourth, changes over time in violent behavior were predicted by the interaction of mother internal controls and adolescent internal controls. Implications of these findings for the construct of internal controls, its development within the family, and relation to intervention strategies are discussed.

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PHD (Doctor of Philosophy)
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