Social-cognitive processes of severely violent, moderately aggressive, and nonaggressive boys

J Consult Clin Psychol. 1994 Apr;62(2):366-74. doi: 10.1037//0022-006x.62.2.366.


This study examined social-cognitive processes of aggressive and nonaggressive boys at preadolescent and early adolescent age levels. The social-cognitive variables included processing of cues, attributions, social problem solving, affect labeling, outcome expectations, and perceived competence and self-worth. Results indicated that a wide range of social-cognitive processes is distorted and deficient for violent and moderately aggressive children, and that different types of social cognition contribute unique variance in discriminating among groups. Severely violent boys at both age levels had difficulties with cue recall, attributions, social problem solving, general self-worth, and a pattern of endorsing unusually positive affects that they may experience in different settings. Moderately aggressive boys shared some of the social-cognitive difficulties demonstrated by severely violent boys, but they also displayed indications that their aggression may be more planfully aimed to achieve expected outcomes. When the moderately aggressive and the violent boys differed from the nonaggressive boys on attributional biases and low perceived self-worth, a continuum existed with violent boys displaying more extreme social-cognitive dysfunctions than the moderately aggressive boys. These findings carry implications for cognitive-behavioral intervention with severely violent and moderately aggressive youths.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Aggression / psychology*
  • Child
  • Humans
  • Juvenile Delinquency / psychology*
  • Juvenile Delinquency / rehabilitation
  • Male
  • Problem Solving*
  • Self Concept
  • Social Perception*
  • Socialization*
  • Violence*