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J Abnorm Psychol. 1995 Nov;104(4):632-43.

Social information-processing patterns partially mediate the effect of early physical abuse on later conduct problems.

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Department of Psychology and Human Development, Vanderbilt University, Nashville, Tennessee 37203, USA.


The authors tested the hypothesis that early physical abuse is associated with later externalizing behavior outcomes and that this relation is mediated by the intervening development of biased social information-processing patterns. They assessed 584 randomly selected boys and girls from European American and African American backgrounds for the lifetime experience of physical abuse through clinical interviews with mothers prior to the child's matriculation in kindergarten. Early abuse increased the risk of teacher-rated externalizing outcomes in Grades 3 and 4 by fourfold, and this effect could not be accounted for by confounded ecological or child factors. Abuse was associated with later processing patterns (encoding errors, hostile attributional biases, accessing of aggressive responses, and positive evaluations of aggression), which, in turn, predicted later externalizing outcomes.

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