Academic journal article The Spanish Journal of Psychology

Justification of Violence Beliefs and Social Problem-Solving as Mediators between Maltreatment and Behavior Problems in Adolescents

Academic journal article The Spanish Journal of Psychology

Justification of Violence Beliefs and Social Problem-Solving as Mediators between Maltreatment and Behavior Problems in Adolescents

Article excerpt

This study examined whether justification of violence beliefs and social problem solving mediated between maltreatment experiences and aggressive and delinquent behavior in adolescents. Data were collected on 191 maltreated and 546 nonmaltreated adolescents (ages 14 to 17 years), who completed measures of justification of violence beliefs, social problem-solving dimensions (problem orientation, and impulsivity/carelessness style), and psychological problems. Findings indicated that maltreated adolescents' higher levels of delinquent and aggressive behavior were partially accounted for by justification of violence beliefs, and that their higher levels of depressive symptoms were partially mediated by a more negative orientation to social problem-solving. Comparisons between boys and girls indicated that the model linking maltreatment, cognitive variables, and psychological problems was invariant.

Keywords: maltreatment, problem-solving, beliefs, aggressive and delinquent behaviors, depression

Este estudio examinó si las creencias justificadoras de la violencia y la resolución de problemas sociales mediaban entre las experiencias de maltrato y la conducta agresiva y delincuente en adolescentes. Se obtuvieron datos de 191 adolescentes que habían experimentado maltrato y 546 adolescentes no maltratados (edades entre 14 y 17 años). Completaron medidas de creencias justificadoras de la violencia, dimensiones de solución de problemas (orientación al problema, y estilo impulsivo) y problemas psicológicos. Los resultados indicaron que los mayores niveles de conducta agresiva y delincuente entre los adolescentes maltratados estaban parcialmente explicados por las creencias justificadoras de la violencia, y que sus mayores niveles de síntomas depresivos estaban mediados parcialmente por una orientación más negativa a los problemas sociales. Las comparaciones entre chicos y chicas indicaron que el modelo de asociación entre maltrato, variables cognitivas y síntomas psicológicos era invariante.

Palabras clave: maltrato, resolución de problemas, creencias, conducta agresiva y delincuente, y depresión

Child maltreatment is a significant social and clinical problem in many countries. It includes various types of harmful experiences, such as physical abuse, sexual abuse, emotional abuse, and neglect (Cicchetti & Toth, 2000; Feindler, Rathus, & Silver, 2003). A broad array of studies has documented the link between child maltreatment and various later maladaptive outcomes, including aggressive behavior (e.g., Malinosky-Rummell & Hansen, 1993; Moe, King, & Bailly, 2004; Muller & Diamond, 1999; Shields & Cicchetti, 1998, 2001), antisocial behavior (e.g., De Paul & Arruabarrena, 1995), and depression (e.g., Toth & Cicchetti, 1996; Toth, Manly, & Cicchetti, 1992). Recently, research has begun to explore the mediating mechanisms that explain the relation between child abuse and later maladaptive outcomes (Herrenkhol, Huang, Tajima, & Whitney, 2003; Kim & Cicchetti, 2004; Widom, 2000). The present study focuses on cognitive mediation as a potential mechanism through which abuse and neglect lead to aggressive and delinquent behavior in adolescents.

The hypothesis of cognitive mediation derives in part from the attachment theory (Bowlby, 1980). Bowlby proposed that infants form working models of interpersonal relationships based on their attachment experiences with primary caregivers, and that these models are used to guide behavior, interpret experiences, and respond to others in new settings. In consequence, early experiences of maltreatment may result in dysfunctional cognitive styles, which in turn increase the risk for a range of emotional and behavior disorders among the victims.

Whereas the cognitive mechanisms through which child abuse and neglect predict later depression have received considerable attention (e.g., Gibb, 2002; Ingram, 2003), relatively few studies have addressed cognitive mediation for aggressive and delinquent behavior. …

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