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The Roles of Trauma Exposure, Rejection Sensitivity, and Callous-Unemotional Traits in the Aggressive Behavior of Justice-Involved Youth A Moderated Mediation Model

NCJ Number
Date Published
January 2018
8 pages
This study examined the role of rejection sensitivity in the association between trauma exposure and aggression, and whether this indirect effect was moderated by callous-unemotional (CU) traits in the aggressive behavior of justice-involved youth.
Research has demonstrated an association between childhood trauma exposure and adolescent aggression. This association may be explained by rejection sensitivity, defined as anger, or anxiety in the anticipation of rejection, which can be a consequence of trauma exposure. Callous-unemotional (CU) traits also are associated with trauma exposure and aggressive behavior; however, research has not yet investigated the interactive roles that rejection sensitivity and CU traits play in the relation between trauma exposure and aggression. Participants in the current study were 380 detained youth (98 girls, 282 boys) who completed self-report measures of trauma exposure, angry and anxious rejection sensitivity, CU traits, and aggression. Results of moderated mediation demonstrated that the relationship between trauma exposure and aggression exhibited an indirect effect through angry rejection sensitivity, but only at moderate or high levels of CU traits. This pattern was not found for anxious rejection sensitivity. Results suggest that interventions aimed at decreasing aggressive behavior in traumatized adolescents may benefit from considering how youth respond to rejection, as well as whether youth endorse CU traits, as this may help to limit further involvement in the juvenile justice system after release. (publisher abstract modified)

Date Published: January 1, 2018