Risk and Protective Factors for Aggression During Adolescence

Principal investigator: Albert Farrell, Ph.D.

Researchers have documented the high prevalence rate of aggression and its serious consequences for both victims and perpetrators. Adolescence is a particularly critical time for interventions designed to prevent both the escalation of risk and increases in the initiation and frequency of violence. Although progress has been made in developing violence prevention programs, these programs have generally had limited success, particularly those designed for middle school students. The goal of this project is to inform prevention efforts by identifying risk and protective factors that influence the development and maintenance of aggressive behavior and those that promote prosocial behavior. This project builds upon several decades of work to identify factors that influence aggressive responses and prosocial responses to problem situations. This includes qualitative research studies designed to identify factors particularly relevant for urban youth (Farrell et al.., 1998, 2007, 2008, 2010, 2015), and measurement development studies (e.g., Farrell et al., 2000, 2005, 2006, 2012, 2016). Its focus is on: (a) refining measures of key constructs within the individual, peer, family, school, and community domains that influence aggressive and prosocial behavior; (b) determining the extent to which these constructs impact the development and maintenance of aggressive behavior; (c) clarifying the underlying mechanisms by which they exert their influence, and (d) identifying protective factors that attenuate the impact of specific risk factors, particularly those in the peer and family domains. These questions are being addressed through analyses of multiple longitudinal data sets from school and community samples that include large samples of adolescents.