Trajectories of Adolescent Aggression and Family Cohesion: The Potential to Perpetuate or Ameliorate Political Conflict

Laura K. Taylor, Christine E. Merrilees, Marcie C. Goeke-Morey, Pete Shirlow, E. Mark Cummings

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

26 Citations (Scopus)


Correlations between intergroup violence and youth aggression are often reported. Yet longitudinal research is needed to understand the developmental factors underlying this relation, including between-person differences in within-person change in aggression through the adolescent years. Multilevel modeling was used to explore developmental and contextual influences related to risk for youth aggression using 4 waves of a prospective, longitudinal study of adolescent/mother dyad reports (N = 820; 51% female; 10–20 years old) in Belfast, Northern Ireland, a setting of protracted political conflict. Experience with sectarian (i.e., intergroup) antisocial behavior predicted greater youth aggression; however, that effect declined with age, and youth were buffered by a cohesive family environment. The trajectory of aggression (i.e., intercepts and linear slopes) related to more youth engagement in sectarian antisocial behavior; however, being female and having a more cohesive family were associated with lower levels of youth participation in sectarian acts. The findings are discussed in terms of protective and risk factors for adolescent aggression, and more specifically, participation in sectarian antisocial behavior. The article concludes with clinical and intervention implications, which may decrease youth aggression and the perpetuation of intergroup violence in contexts of ongoing conflict.

Original languageEnglish
Number of pages16
JournalJournal of Clinical Child and Adolescent Psychology
Early online date13 Oct 2014
Publication statusPublished - 2015


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