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Piecing together the aggression puzzle: Testing the mediating variables linking early to later aggression

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Aggressive Behavior

Published online on


Results from several studies show that early aggression predicts later aggression; however, few studies have examined the mediating mechanisms in these relations. The paucity of research that has tested mediation found that aggressive motives and hostile attributions are important causal processes. This past work is limited by not measuring aggression multiple times throughout the study to test aggression change over time and the variables that mediate such change. The current study had participants (N = 90) interact with a same‐sex confederate on a modified version of the Tangram Task—our measure of aggressive behavior—for three trials. At each trial, participants completed a measure of aggressive motivations, assigned tangram puzzles for their partner to solve, were provoked (or not) by their ostensible partner, and then completed an assessment of aggressive attributions regarding their partner's behavior. Results showed that, for provoked participants, the relation between Time 1 aggressive attributions predicted Time 3 aggressive behavior through the following temporal mediated pathway: Time 2 aggressive attributions, Time 2 aggressive behavior, and Time 3 aggressive motivations.