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181 Examining the association between rejection sensitivity and aggression in middle school students
  1. Mary Cunningham
  1. University of Michigan School of Public Health


Statement of Purpose As violence remains a persistent problem in schools, it is crucial to better understand factors that predict aggressive behavior in youth. Previous research has shown that rejection can elicit aggressive behavior, particularly in individuals who report high levels of rejection sensitivity. Rejection sensitivity refers to the tendency to expect and overreact to rejection.

Methods/Approach The study sample includes 697 students recruited from middle schools in Miami, FL and Los Angeles, CA. Students completed two surveys on school climate during the 2018–2019 school year as part of a school safety program evaluation. We used linear regression to determine the correlates of aggressive behavior at Time 2. Covariates in the model included rejection sensitivity, age, gender, race, and victimization at Time 2, aggressive behavior at Time 1, location, and school.

Results Findings reveal that higher levels of rejection sensitivity were associated with more engagement in aggressive behavior (β=0.18; 95% CI: 0.01, 0.35). We also found that Time 1 aggressive behavior (β=0.35; 95% CI: 0.16, 0.53), age (β=1.06; 95% CI: 0.29, 1.83), previous victimization (β=0.33; 95% CI: 0.22,0.44), and location (β=1.08; 95% CI: 0.21,1.95) were significantly associated with aggressive behavior at Time 2.

Conclusions Previous engagement in aggressive behavior, victimization, and age are all known predictors of aggressive behavior in youth. Youth who report higher levels of rejection sensitivity are more likely to report engagement in aggressive behaviors in the last 3 months.

Significance and Contributions to Injury and Violence Prevention Science Similar to other cognitive behavioral approaches to understanding and reducing youth violence, changing how youth frame and respond to experiences of rejection could reduce engagement in aggressive behaviors.

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