Exploring the effects of physical punishment on aggressive behavior and peer victimization: A conditional process analysis

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Purpose – Recentstudiesindicatethatexposureto physicalpunishmentis associatedwithbothaggressive behaviorandpeervictimizationatschool.Thepurposeofthispaperistoexplorethebidirectionalrelationship between aggressive behavior and peer victimization as outcomes of physical punishment, as well as the role of depressive symptoms. 

Design/methodology/approach – A sample of 2,424 Finnish upper primary school pupils (1,282 girls, 1,148 boys, mean age¼14.2, SD¼1.0) completed an online survey during class. Two conditional process models were applied using a macro for SPSS developed by Hayes (2012). 

Findings – Exposure to physical punishment was found to be associated with both aggressive behavior and peer victimization at school. The effect on victimization was partially mediated by aggressive behavior and depressive symptoms, whereas the effect on aggressive behavior was partially mediated by peer victimization experiences but not by depressive symptoms. The relationship between physical punishment and peer victimization was somewhat stronger for girls than for boys, but this effect was not accounted for by gender differences in depressive symptoms or aggressive behavior. 

Originality/value – Few studies to date have addressed the connection between aggressive behavior and peer victimization as outcomes of physical punishment. In addition, the study expands on the concept of “victim personality” by examining the mediating role of depressive symptoms. Methodologically, the study is an example of how the statistical software SPSS can be used for multiple mediation and conditionalprocess analysis as an alternative to SEM analyses. 

Original languageUndefined/Unknown
Pages (from-to)21–32
JournalJournal of Aggression, Conflict and Peace Research
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2016
MoE publication typeA1 Journal article-refereed

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