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Middle school students overestimate normative support for aggression and underestimate normative support for nonviolent problem-solving strategies

Authors

  • David B. Henry,

    Corresponding author
    • University of Illinois at Chicago
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  • Allison B. Dymnicki,

    1. American Institutes for Research
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  • Michael E. Schoeny,

    1. University of Chicago
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  • Aleta L. Meyer,

    1. National Institute on Drug Abuse
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  • Nina C. Martin,

    1. Vanderbilt University
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  • Multisite Violence Prevention Project

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    • The Multisite Violence Prevention Project corporate author group includes the following individuals listed by sites (sites arranged in alphabetical order) with their current affiliations noted 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 School of Medicine); 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, Deborah Gorman-Smith, David B. Henry, Franklin N. Gay, Michael Schoeny, Virginia Commonwealth University, Richmond VA: Albert D. Farrell, Aleta L. Meyer (National Institute on Drug Abuse); 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, CDC Cooperative Agreements U81/CCU417759 (Duke University), U81/CCU517816 (University of Chicago, Illinois), U81/CCU417778 (The University of Georgia), and U81/CCU317633 (Virginia Commonwealth University). 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.

Correspondence concerning this article should be addressed to David B. Henry, Institute for Health Research and Policy, University of Illinois at Chicago, Chicago, 1747 W. Roosevelt Rd., Chicago, IL 60608, USA. E-mail: dhenry@uic.edu

Abstract

This study tested five hypotheses related to the accuracy of students' perceptions of school norms for aggression and nonviolent problem-solving strategies with two cohorts (ns = 852 and 968) of 6th-grade students in 12 schools. Students consistently overestimated peer normative support for aggression and underestimated peer normative support for nonviolent problem-solving strategies. This effect remained significant in tests of moderation by gender, ethnicity, and aggression level. Tests for moderation by the degree of provocation (e.g., if a student was hit first) and a test measuring actual norms from eighth graders and perceived norms from seventh graders suggested that the discrepancy was not due to self-serving bias or social desirability. Longitudinal analysis found that the discrepancy remained through 8th grade. The discrepancy between actual and perceived norms has implications for risk and violence prevention, which are discussed.

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