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Keywords:

  • adolescents;
  • Basque country;
  • Spain;
  • aggressive behavior;
  • victimization;
  • exposure to violence;
  • community violence;
  • school violence;
  • home violence;
  • political violence;
  • social information processing;
  • structural equation modeling

The purpose of this study was to determine whether exposure to violence (EV) in several contexts predicts aggressive behavior through social information processing (SIP) in adolescents. Six hundred and fifty adolescents between the ages of 12 and 17 participated in a 3-wave longitudinal study. The participants completed measures of proactive and reactive aggression at all waves, SIP measures at Time 1 and Time 2, and violence exposure at Time 1. It was expected that SIP would mediate the predictive relationship between EV and aggressive behavior. We found that total Time 1 EV predicted Time 3 reactive aggression. The influence of EV on proactive aggression was direct. Slight differences emerged, however, for victimization and witnessing violence. Witnessing was associated with reactive aggression via both hostile attribution and response selection, whereas victimization predicted reactive aggression via hostile attribution only. Results also suggested that the types of exposure that are most relevant for the development of aggressive behavior are community and school violence. Finally, male adolescents experienced more EV than female adolescents in all contexts except in the home. The findings indicate that intervention in social-cognitive mechanisms is important to reduce aggressive behavior in adolescents who have been exposed to violence.