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J Abnorm Child Psychol. 2012 Oct;40(7):1111-22. doi: 10.1007/s10802-012-9629-4.

Emotion dysregulation as a mechanism linking stress exposure to adolescent aggressive behavior.

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Department of Society, Human Development, and Health, Harvard School of Public Health, 667 Huntington Avenue, Boston, MA 02115, USA.


Exposure to stress is associated with a wide range of internalizing and externalizing problems in adolescents, including aggressive behavior. Extant research examining mechanisms underlying the associations between stress and youth aggression has consistently identified social information processing pathways that are disrupted by exposure to violence and increase risk of aggressive behavior. In the current study, we use longitudinal data to examine emotion dysregulation as a potential mechanism linking a broader range of stressful experiences to aggressive behavior in a diverse sample of early adolescents (N = 1065). Specifically, we examined the longitudinal associations of peer victimization and stressful life events with emotion dysregulation and aggressive behavior. Structural equation modeling was used to create latent constructs of emotion dysregulation and aggression. Both stressful life events and peer victimization predicted subsequent increases in emotion dysregulation over a 4-month period. These increases in emotion dysregulation, in turn, were associated with increases in aggression over the subsequent 3 months. Longitudinal mediation models showed that emotion dysregulation mediated the relationship of both peer victimization (z = 2.35, p = 0.019) and stressful life events (z = 2.32, p = 0.020) with aggressive behavior. Increasing the use of adaptive emotion regulation strategies is an important target for interventions aimed at preventing the onset of adolescent aggressive behavior.

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