Interpersonal Trauma Linked to Aggressive Behavior

by | Nov 1, 2018 | Improving Human Health and Community Vibrancy, Research News

Adolescents who experience trauma such as robbery, kidnapping, or physical or sexual abuse are more likely than their peers to have suicidal thoughts and to think and behave aggressively, according to a new study by University of Arkansas researchers.

The study is based on data from a previously published mental health survey by the National Institute of Mental Health. Researchers found that adolescents traumatized by intentional violence agaisnt them were more likely to have suicidal thoughts and act out aggression against others in the form of breaking things and hitting. Teah-Marie Bynion, a doctoral candidate in the Department of Psychological Science at the University of Arkansas and first author of the study, said the findings could help mental health professionals identify adolescents at risk of harming themselves or others.

“We can assess and find individuals who have experienced these types of traumas versus those who haven’t,” Bynion said. “This is a huge risk factor, but it is one that is easily identifiable.”

Bynion and her colleagues used data collected in the National Comorbidity Survey-Adolescent Supplement to create four categories of adolescents, ages 13-17: those who experienced violent interpersonal trauma; those who experienced non-interpersonal trauma such as a car crash or natural disaster; those who experienced both; and those who experienced neither. Adolescents who reported experiencing violent interpersonal trauma, along with those who reported experiencing both types of trauma, reported significantly higher levels of aggression and toward themselves and others.

U of A psychology professor Ellen W. LeenFeldner co-authored the study, which was published in the journal Social Psychology and Psychiatric Epidemiology.

About The Author

Bob Whitby writes about bioscience, geoscience, physics, space and planetary sciences, psychology and sociology. Reach him at 479-575-4737, or

University Relations Science and Research Team

University Relations Science and Research Team

Matt McGowan
science and research writer

Robert Whitby
science and research writer

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