Family Violence, Sibling, and Peer Aggression During Adolescence: Associations With Behavioral Health Outcomes

Katherine M. Ingram, Dorothy L. Espelage, Jordan P. Davis, Gabriel J. Merrin

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

35 Scopus citations


Bullying and sibling aggression can appear as similar behavior, though the latter is comparatively understudied. Aligned with the Theory of Intergenerational Transmission of Violence, research suggests that exposure to family violence increases an individual's risk for perpetrating violence in their own future relationships. Additionally, Problem Behavior Theory suggests that engaging in one problem behavior (e.g., bullying) increases the likelihood of engaging in other problem behavior (e.g., substance use). In Phase 1, this study of middle school students from the U.S. examined how exposure to family violence predicted membership in latent classes of bullying and sibling aggression perpetration (N = 894, sampled from four middle schools). In Phase 2, we used mixture modeling to understand how latent classes of family violence, sibling aggression, and bullying predict future substance use, mental health outcomes, and deviance behavior later in high school. Results yielded four profiles of peer and sibling aggression: high all, high sibling aggression, high peer aggression, and low all aggression. Youth who reported witnessing more family violence at home were significantly more likely to fall into the sibling aggression only and high all classes, compared to the low all class. Phase 2 results also yielded four classes: a high all class, a sibling aggression and family violence class, a peer aggression class, and a low all class. Individuals in the high all class were more likely to experience several unfavorable outcomes (substance use, depression, delinquency) compared to other classes. This study provides evidence for pathways from witnessing violence, to perpetrating aggression across multiple contexts, to developing other deleterious mental and behavioral health outcomes. These findings highlight the negative impact family violence can have on child development, providing support for a cross-contextual approach for programming aimed at developing relationships skills.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number26
JournalFrontiers in Psychiatry
StatePublished - Feb 11 2020
Externally publishedYes


  • adverse child experiences
  • aggressive behavior
  • bullying
  • childhood trauma and adversity
  • peer deviance
  • substance (drug) abuse

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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