Date of Award




Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Department of Psychology


Clinical Psychology

Content Description

1 online resource (vi, 70 pages)

Dissertation/Thesis Chair

Elana B Gordis

Committee Members

Allen C Israel, Robert A Rosellini


aggressive behavior, childhood development, community violence, hypothalamic pituitary adrenal axis, resiliency, sympathetic nervous system, Aggressiveness in children, Children and violence, Conduct disorders in children, Sympathetic nervous system

Subject Categories

Clinical Psychology | Psychology


Research suggests that community violence exposure in children appears to be widespread and likely places children at a higher risk for aggression. However, not all children exposed to community violence develop behavioral problems. Interest has centered on possible moderating factors that may affect the relationship between community violence and later aggression, including biological reactivity of the sympathetic nervous system (SNS) and the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis, and supportive resiliency factors. Exposure to violence may be related to an asymmetry between SNS and HPA axis activation, whereas resiliency factors may buffer the effect of community violence. To date, however, few studies have simultaneously assessed both biological reactivity and resiliency factors. The purpose of the present study is to examine how biological reactivity and resiliency may moderate the relationship between exposure to community violence and aggression in a sample of older children and young adolescents (i.e., 9-12-year olds) living in a high risk (i.e., low SES, high crime) neighborhood. Results suggest that patterns of asymmetrical activation and high symmetrical activation among females, in conjunction with high reported resiliency were associated with lower reported aggression. In contrast, low symmetrical activation in conjunction with high reported resiliency was associated with increased aggression among females. Results further suggest that hyperarousal in response to a specific stressor can exacerbate the relationship between witnessed community violence and aggressive behavior. Significant results were not found among males. Results are discussed in the context of recent research on the interactive effects of SNS and HPA axis activation and resiliency factors.