Links of justice and rejection sensitivity with aggression in childhood and adolescence.


Individual differences in justice sensitivity and rejection sensitivity have been linked to differences in aggressive behavior in adults. However, there is little research studying this association in children and adolescents and considering the two constructs in combination. We assessed justice sensitivity from the victim, observer, and perpetrator perspective as well as anxious and angry rejection sensitivity and linked both constructs to different forms (physical, relational), and functions (proactive, reactive) of self-reported aggression and to teacher- and parent-rated aggression in N = 1,489 9- to 19-year olds in Germany. Victim sensitivity and both angry and anxious rejection sensitivity showed positive correlations with all forms and functions of aggression. Angry rejection sensitivity also correlated positively with teacher-rated aggression. Perpetrator sensitivity was negatively correlated with all aggression measures, and observer sensitivity also correlated negatively with all aggression measures except for a positive correlation with reactive aggression. Path models considering the sensitivity facets in combination and controlling for age and gender showed that higher victim justice sensitivity predicted higher aggression on all measures. Higher perpetrator sensitivity predicted lower physical, relational, proactive, and reactive aggression. Higher observer sensitivity predicted lower teacher-rated aggression. Angry rejection sensitivity predicted higher proactive and reactive aggression, whereas anxious rejection sensitivity did not make an additional contribution to the prediction of aggression. The findings are discussed in terms of social information processing models of aggression in childhood and adolescence.