Purpose: This study examines risk factors for aggression among boys in Kingston, Jamaica.
Methods: One hundred and one aggressive and 101 prosocial schoolboys in grades 5–6 (mean age 11.7, SD 0.6 years) were selected by peer and teacher ratings from 10 schools in the capital city, Kingston, during 1998. They were given in-depth questionnaires, arithmetic, reading and verbal intelligence tests and their behaviour was rated. Their parents were also given a detailed questionnaire.
Results: The aggressive boys reported significantly more involvement in fights than the prosocial boys. They had lower scores on spelling/reading and verbal IQ, less ambitious aspirations and poorer quality school uniforms. They were not more likely to infer hostile intent in ambiguous situations but were more likely to respond with aggression. Aggressive boys came from poorer homes with more marijuana use, less parental affection or supervision and more family discord. They were less exposed to religious instruction, their parents had lower occupational levels and were more likely to be in common-law unions than married. They were more exposed to neighbourhood violence and were punished more often at home and at school. Logistic regression analyses were carried out to determine the independent risk factors for aggression. Exposure to neighbourhood violence, physical punishment at home and family discord were associated with increased risk; parents’ being married, practising religion as a family and better school uniforms were associated with reduced risk.
Conclusions: Although community violence was a serious problem, family characteristics were also important risk factors for aggressive behaviour.