Date of Award

Spring 2012

Document Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)

Department

Clinical Psychology

First Advisor

John Grych

Second Advisor

Alyson Gerdes

Third Advisor

Amy Van Hecke

Abstract

The present study examined the relationship between youth exposure to violence in the home and community and their perceptions of the acceptability of aggression in interactions involving peers and siblings. The importance of the context in which the violence occurs was investigated, as well the ability of parent-child attachment to buffer the effects of violence on aggressive attitudes. A diverse sample of 148 children, ages 9 to 14, completed measures of interparental, parent-child, and community aggression, as well as a measure of mother-child attachment. Youths also rated the acceptability of aggressive interactions between two peers and two siblings in written vignettes. Youths' exposure to violence was related to perceptions of aggression as more acceptable, with parent-child aggression having the strongest association and community violence also having a unique contribution. Maternal attachment acted as a buffer between exposure to community violence and perceived acceptability of aggression, such that when exposed to high levels of community violence, youth with more secure maternal attachments perceived aggression as less acceptable than youths with less secure attachment. Finally, when examining peer and sibling interactions separately, parent-child conflict had the strongest relation with perceptions across contexts of peer and sibling aggression and community violence only predicted attitudes about peer aggression.