Does Violence Beget Violence? Factors Moderating Trajectories of Youth Aggression in a Context of Political Conflict

Doctoral Dissertation


A common assumption is that a violent environment produces violent youth; this project interrogated this assertion in two ways examining if exposure to intergroup antisocial behavior increases youth aggression, and in turn, if changes in general youth aggression are related to participation in intergroup conflict. Improving on past work, the current study utilized four waves of a prospective, longitudinal dataset of mother/child dyads (N=820; 51% female; ages 10 to 20 years old) in Northern Ireland. Hierarchical linear modeling (HLM) addressed new questions about inter-individual differences in intra-individual change in a setting of protracted political conflict. Although boys were higher than girls in initial aggression, there were no significant gender differences in the average trajectory or linear change in aggression from 10 to 20 years old. As a risk factor, experience with sectarian antisocial behavior predicted greater aggression problems; however, that effect weakened with age and was buffered by a cohesive family environment. Regarding the continuation of intergroup conflict, being female and having a more cohesive family negatively predicted youth participation in sectarian acts, whereas the trajectory of general aggression (i.e., intercepts and linear slopes) predicted significantly more youth engagement in out-group antisocial behavior. On an individual level, the findings identify ways the family environment serves to protect youth from greater aggression and from engaging in out-group hostility; at a societal level, the project suggests multiple ways to decrease the potential for youth mobilization in protracted conflict.


Attribute NameValues
  • etd-04192013-141617

Author Laura K. Taylor
Advisor E. Mark Cummings
Contributor Dan Lapsley, Committee Member
Contributor John Paul Lederach, Committee Member
Contributor E. Mark Cummings, Committee Chair
Contributor Scott Maxwell, Committee Member
Degree Level Doctoral Dissertation
Degree Discipline Peace Studies
Degree Name Doctor of Philosophy
Banner Code

Defense Date
  • 2013-04-15

Submission Date 2013-04-19
  • United States of America

  • adolescence

  • gender

  • family cohesion

  • political violence

  • protracted conflict

  • youth aggression

  • risk and resilience

  • University of Notre Dame

  • English

Record Visibility Public
Content License
  • All rights reserved

Departments and Units

Digital Object Identifier


This DOI is the best way to cite this doctoral dissertation.


Please Note: You may encounter a delay before a download begins. Large or infrequently accessed files can take several minutes to retrieve from our archival storage system.