Violent interpersonal trauma predicts aggressive thoughts and behaviors towards self and others: findings from the National Comorbidity Survey-Adolescent Supplement [2018]

The purpose of the current study is to examine the relation between adolescent traumatic event exposure and aggression directed towards the self and others. Theoretical perspectives underscore the particularly pernicious effects of violent traumas intentionally perpetrated by others in terms of negative posttraumatic outcomes. However, a careful comparison of trauma type in relation to aggression has not been done with youth. The current project, therefore, examined differences between youth with a history of violent interpersonal trauma (VIT) compared to those with a non-violent trauma type history in terms of aggressive behavior directed towards others as well as aggressive self-directed thoughts (suicidal ideation).

The sample was drawn from the National Comorbidity Survey-Replication and consisted of 1928 adolescents (M = 15.4; SD = 1.47 years), each assigned to one of four age- and gender-matched trauma history groups.

Consistent with hypotheses, among trauma-exposed youth, those who had experienced or witnessed a VIT (compared to those reporting a non-VIT only) evidenced elevated aggression, even after controlling for a number of theoretically relevant covariates (e.g., gender, age, household income, demographic factors).

Results indicate that youth with a history of VIT may be at unique risk for experiencing aggression directed towards others and the self compared to those without this specific trauma history. This is important because trauma type is an easily assessed indicator of potentially elevated risk for these types of deleterious outcomes. Findings are situated in a research agenda aimed at continuing to refine our understanding of the link between interpersonal trauma and aggression.

Teah-Marie Bynion, Renee Cloutier, Heidemarie Blumenthal, Emily R. Mischel, Sasha M. Rojas, Ellen W. Leen-Feldner
Social Psychiatry and Psychiatric Epidemiology, December 2018, Volume 53, Issue 12