Methods: We used growth curve models to examine the longitudinal associations (3 data points over 5 months) between future expectations (FE) and aggressive behavior in a national sample of adolescents participating in after school programs (N = 479; 15 sites across 12 states; Male = 61.2%; white = 34.4%, black = 54.5%; 3rd-9th grade). Latent intercepts and slopes of FE (Wyman et al., 1993; mean of 6 items (α=.81-.88)) and physical and relational aggression (California Department of Education, 2004; mean of 10 items (α=.89-.92)) were first examined individually. We then regressed the latent intercept and slope of aggressive behavior on the intercept and slope of FE in a structural model. Analyses control for site and demographic characteristics.
Results: Overall, reported aggressive behavior began (bAggress.Intercept= 0.85, p=.04) and trended lower across the three measurement occasions (bAggress.Slope= -0.04, p=.07), with significant variability in participant intercepts (t00= 0.72, p<.01) and slopes (t11= 0.13, p<.01). Consistent with previous studies, FE showed initially high (bFE.Intercept= 4.22, p<.001) and steady (bFE.Slope= -0.02, p=.70) levels, although, notably, significant intercept (t00= 0.32, p<.001) and slope (t11= 0.12 p<.001) variability. Examined together, more positive FE intercepts were significantly associated with lower aggressive behavior intercepts (b=-0.24, SE=0.05; p<.001) and aggressive behavior slopes (b=-0.15, SE=0.08; p<.05). FE slopes were negatively associated with aggressive behavior slopes (b=-0.44, SE=0.11; p<.001). The covariates explained 15% and 18% of the aggressive behavior intercept and slope variance, respectively.
Conclusions: Our results indicate that future expectation can change over time, which in turn influences how aggression changes over time. Researchers report a variety of correlates with later aggressive behavior (e.g., sex of perpetrator/target; masculinity; executive functioning), not all of which are readily modifiable through intervention. Future expectations, in contrast, are both malleable (Oshri et al., 2018) and responsive to intervention efforts (Bardach et al., 2010; Oyserman et al., 2002). The results support incorporating a FE component to (both physical and relational) aggression-related interventions. Example FE intervention strategies are discussed.