Exposure to Violence, Social Information Processing, and Problem Behavior in Preschool Children

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Understanding the mechanisms by which early risk factors for social maladjustment contribute to disruptive behaviors in social settings is vital to developmental research and practice. A major risk factor for social maladjustment is early exposure to violence, which was examined in this short-term longitudinal study in relation to social information processing (SIP) patterns and externalizing and internalizing behaviors in a sample of 256 preschool children. Data on exposure to violence were obtained via parent report, data on SIP were obtained via child interview, and data on child problem behavior were obtained via teacher report. Findings supported the hypothesis that, compared to children not exposed to violence, children reported to witness and/or experience violence are more likely to attribute hostile intent to peers, generate aggressive responses, and evaluate socially unaccepted responses (aggressive and inept) as socially suitable. The former were also found to exhibit higher levels of externalizing and internalizing behaviors. Finally, SIP mediated the link between exposure to violence and problem behavior thus supporting this study's general approach, which argues that the link between exposure to violence and children's problem behaviors are better understood within the context of their perceptions about social relationships.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)429-441
Number of pages13
JournalAggressive Behavior
Issue number6
StatePublished - Nov 2012


  • Exposure to violence
  • Externalizing behavior
  • Internalizing behavior
  • Preschool
  • Social information processing

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)
  • Psychology (all)


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