Methods: Analyses were conducted on data from 2,143 urban middle school students. Participants were 49% male, 76% African American, 20% Latinx, and ranged from 11 to 16 years in age. Participants completed the Problem Behavior Frequency scale, and four subscales from the Beliefs About Fighting Scale (BAFS). Regression models controlling for sex and ethnicity were used to examine moderator effects.
Results: The frequency of cyber-victimization was significantly related to the frequency of both cyber (βs = .54 to .59) and physical aggression (βs = .32 to .36). The strength of this relation did not vary as a function of beliefs supporting reactive aggression. It was, however, significantly moderated by each of the other three beliefs scales. As expected, cyber-victimization was more strongly related to both forms of aggression among students reporting higher levels of beliefs supporting instrumental aggression, and those reporting lower levels of beliefs against fighting. Relations with the scale assessing beliefs that fighting is sometimes necessary were more complex. Although the Beliefs That Fighting is Sometimes Necessary Scale was positively related to both forms of aggression, it significantly decreased the relation between cyber-victimization and both forms of aggression. In other words, although adolescents who more strongly endorsed the belief that fighting is sometimes necessary reported higher levels of aggression than those who did not, there was also a weaker relation between cyber-victimization and aggression for these adolescents.
Discussion: Adolescents’ beliefs about fighting are not only associated with their engagement in cyber and physical aggression, but also impact the association between experiencing cyber-victimization and engaging in both cyber and physical aggression. These effects were not always as expected. Further research is needed to clarify these relations, particularly for the role of beliefs that fighting may be necessary under certain circumstances. These findings suggest that targeting interventions on beliefs about aggression may have benefit not only in reducing aggression directly, but reducing risk associated with victimization.