The Impact of Victimization and Witnessing Violence on Physical Aggression Among High-Risk Adolescents


  • The authors are grateful to the Multisite Violence Prevention Project for permission to use the data for this study. Investigators from each site are as follows (changes in affiliations in parentheses): Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Atlanta, GA: Thomas R. Simon, Robin M. Ikeda, Emilie Smith (Penn State University); Le'Roy E. Reese (Morehouse University); Duke University, Durham, NC: David L. Rabiner, Shari Miller (Research Triangle Institute), Donna-Marie Winn (University of North Carolina—Chapel Hill), Kenneth A. Dodge, Steven R. Asher; University of Georgia, Athens, GA: Arthur M. Horne, Pamela Orpinas, Roy Martin, William H. Quinn (Clemson University); University of Illinois at Chicago, Chicago, IL: Patrick H. Tolan (University of Virginia), Deborah Gorman-Smith (University of Chicago), David B. Henry, Franklin N. Gay (University of Chicago), Michael Schoeny (University of Chicago), Virginia Commonwealth University, Richmond, VA: Albert D. Farrell, Aleta L. Meyer (Administration for Children and Families, Washington, DC); Terri N. Sullivan, Kevin W. Allison. This study was funded by the National Center for Injury Prevention and Control, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and CDC Cooperative Agreements 1U49CE001296 and U81/CCU317633. The findings and conclusions in this report are those of the authors and do not necessarily represent the official position of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.


Relations among witnessing violence, victimization, and physical aggression were investigated within a high-risk sample of 1,156 sixth graders. Longitudinal, multilevel analyses were conducted on two waves of data from two cohorts of students in 37 schools from four communities. The sample was 65% male and 67% African American. Neighborhood concentrated disadvantage, witnessing violence, victimization, and physical aggression were strongly and positively correlated at the school level. Contrary to hypothesis, exposure to violence did not mediate the effects of neighborhood concentrated disadvantage on changes in physical aggression. As expected, witnessing violence and physical aggression had bidirectional longitudinal effects on each other at the student level. In contrast, there were no cross-variable relations between changes in violent victimization and aggression over time.