Objective: We examined associations between pubertal stage and violent adolescent behavior and social/relational aggression.
Methods: The International Youth Development Study comprises statewide representative student samples in grades 5, 7, and 9 (N = 5769) in Washington State and Victoria, Australia, drawn as a 2-stage cluster sample in each state. We used a school-administered, self-report student survey to measure previous-year violent behavior (ie, attacking or beating up another person) and social/relational aggression (excluding peers from the group, threatening to spread lies or rumors), as well as risk and protective factors and pubertal development. Cross-sectional data were analyzed.
Results: Compared with early puberty, the odds of violent behavior were approximately threefold higher in midpuberty (odds ratio [OR]: 2.87 [95% confidence interval (CI): 1.81-4.55]) and late puberty (OR: 3.79 [95% CI: 2.25-6.39]) after adjustment for demographic factors. For social/relational aggression, there were weaker overall associations after adjustment, but these associations included an interaction between pubertal stage and age, and stronger associations with pubertal stage at younger age were shown (P = .003; midpuberty OR: 1.78 [95% CI: 1.20-2.63]; late puberty OR: 3.00 [95% CI: 1.95-4.63]). Associations between pubertal stage and violent behavior and social/relational aggression remained after the inclusion of social contextual mediators in the analyses.
Conclusions: Pubertal stage was associated with higher rates of violent behavior and social/relational aggression, with the latter association seen only at younger ages. Puberty is an important phase at which to implement prevention programs to reduce adolescent violent and antisocial behaviors.