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Cognitive and emotional covariates of violence exposure among former prisoners: links to antisocial behavior and emotional distress and implications for theory



In this study, formerly incarcerated men (N = 123) were assessed for their experiences with violence in the community as well as their current behavioral and mental health status (antisocial behavior and emotional distress). Participants also completed measures of two constructs theorized to moderate relations between exposure to violence and outcomes: cognitive beliefs supporting aggressive responding and negative emotional reactivity to witnessed violence. Data on key social-demographic background factors affecting outcomes were also collected. Analyses showed that, after controlling the effects of background factors, relationships between experiences with violence in the community and behavioral/mental health were moderated by cognitive beliefs and emotional reactivity. At high levels of support for aggressive responding, significant positive links were observed between exposure to violence and antisocial behavior as well as emotional distress. At high levels of negative reactivity to violence, a significant positive link was observed between exposure to violence and emotional distress (but not antisocial behavior). Findings are discussed with respect to research and theory on the effects of exposure to violence in high-risk adult populations. Aggr. Behav. 37:465–475, 2011. © 2011 Wiley-Liss, Inc.