Study Finds Adolescent Victims of Abuse More Prone to Violent Behavior

Teah-Marie Bynion
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Teah-Marie Bynion

FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. – Adolescents who experience trauma such as robbery, kidnapping, or physical or sexual abuse are more likely than their peers to have suicidal thoughts and to think and behave aggressively, according to a new study by University of Arkansas researchers.

The study is based on data from a previously published mental health survey by the National Institute of Mental Health. Researchers found that adolescents traumatized by intentional violence agaisnt them were more likely to have suicidal thoughts and act out aggression against others in the form of breaking things and hitting.

Teah-Marie Bynion, a doctoral candidate in the Department of Psychological Science at the University of Arkansas and first author of the study, said the findings could help mental health professionals identify adolescents at risk of harming themselves or others.

“We can assess and find individuals who have experienced these types of traumas versus those who haven’t,” Bynion said. “This is a huge risk factor, but it is one that is easily identifiable.”

Bynion and her colleagues used data collected in the National Comorbidity Survey-Adolescent Supplement to create four categories of adolescents, ages 13-17: those who experienced violent interpersonal trauma; those who experienced non-interpersonal trauma such as a car crash or natural disaster; those who experienced both; and those who experienced neither. Adolescents who reported experiencing violent interpersonal trauma, along with those who reported experiencing both types of trauma, reported significantly higher levels of aggression toward themselves and others.

U of A psychology professor Ellen W. LeenFeldner co-authored the study, which was published in the journal Social Psychology and Psychiatric Epidemiology.

About the J. William Fulbright College of Arts and Sciences: Fulbright College is the largest and most academically diverse unit on campus with 19 departments and more than 30 academic programs and research centers. The college provides the core curriculum for all University of Arkansas students and is named for J. William Fulbright, former university president and longtime U.S. senator. 

About the University of Arkansas: The University of Arkansas provides an internationally competitive education for undergraduate and graduate students in more than 200 academic programs. The university contributes new knowledge, economic development, basic and applied research, and creative activity while also providing service to academic and professional disciplines. The Carnegie Foundation classifies the University of Arkansas among only 2 percent of universities in America that have the highest level of research activity. U.S. News & World Report ranks the University of Arkansas among its top American public research universities. Founded in 1871, the University of Arkansas comprises 10 colleges and schools and maintains a low student-to-faculty ratio that promotes personal attention and close mentoring.


Teah-Marie Bynion, graduate assistant, Department of Psychological Science
J. William Fulbright College of Arts and Sciences

Bob Whitby, feature writer
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