Several studies have shown that exposure to family and community violence during childhood and adolescence is associated with an increased risk for development of externalizing behavior problems, but less is known about specific mechanisms that mediate this relation. Variations in social cognition serve as one possible mechanism by which these environmental experiences influence aggressive behavior during adolescence. Children who have been maltreated tend to display negatively biased social-cognitive processing styles, which may in turn increase their likelihood of reacting aggressively in ambiguous social situations. Similarly, witnessing community violence is associated with aspects of social cognition, including beliefs that support aggressive responses to threat. Recent studies also suggest that exposure to extreme forms of stress and violence can produce changes in children's neurobiology that may increase their hypersensitivity and reactivity to interpersonal threat. Some of the strongest evidence of the role of social cognition as a mechanism in this association comes from intervention studies which reduced aggressive behavior by targeting negatively biased social-cognitive processing styles.
- Community violence
- Social cognition
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)