Objective. Frequent violent behavior among adolescents has been found to be associated with previous exposure to violence, personal victimization, depression, hopelessness, and older age. Although young adolescents engage in less severe violent behavior than older adolescents, their perceived normative expectations to use violence to resolve conflicts may already be established by early adolescence. This study examined the influence of exposure to violence, depression, church attendance, multiple drug use, and demographic variables on young adolescents' intentions to use violence to resolve conflict.
Methods. Young adolescents (N = 225, males = 49.4%, black = 88.7%, mean age = 12.9 ± 1 years) in two middle schools serving low-income and working-class communities were administered a previously tested anonymous questionnaire. They were also asked how they would resolve conflict in 15 different hypothetical situations. Each situation had 10 possible responses ranging from humor or avoidance to severe violence (eg, use of a gun). The Intentions to Use Violence in Hypothetical Situations Scale had a high internal reliability (α = .88) and was correlated (r = .46) at the expected level for this age group with a standardized use of violence and weapon-carrying scale.
Results. The Intentions to Use Violence in Hypothetical Situations Scale was significantly correlated with age (r = .17), school grade (r = .14), lower church attendance (r = -.23), frequency of smoking (r = .24), alcohol use (r = .37), marijuana use (r = .36), crack cocaine use (r = .14), smokeless tobacco use (r = .20), injecting drug use (r = .16), depression (r = .12), and exposure to violence (r = .48). Based on multiple regression analysis, exposure to violence, marijuana use, frequency of church attendance, alcohol use, cocaine use, and tobacco use accounted for 36.6% of the variation in the Intentions to Use Violence in Hypothetical Situations Scale.
Conclusion. Although the intention to use violence was associated with previous exposure to violence and current drug use, adolescents who attended religious services more often were less likely to report that they would use violence to resolve interpersonal conflict.