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Longitudinal Links of Individual and Collective Morality with Adolescents’ Peer Aggression
Journal of Youth and Adolescence  (IF4.381),  Pub Date : 2021-10-18, DOI: 10.1007/s10964-021-01518-9
Gini, Gianluca, Thornberg, Robert, Bussey, Kay, Angelini, Federica, Pozzoli, Tiziana

Adolescents’ aggressive behavior has been often linked to biases in morality. However, limited knowledge is available regarding the relative strength of different moral correlates, both at the individual and class-level, in predicting different types of aggressive behavior over time. To address this gap, the present study tested the prospective associations of moral identity and moral disengagement with reactive and proactive aggression in a short-term longitudinal study. The sample consisted of 1158 Italian adolescents (48.7% females; Mage = 13.6 years, SD = 1.1). Participants completed self-report measures of moral identity, moral disengagement, perceived collective moral disengagement in the fall, and reactive and proactive aggression in the fall and in the spring. Multivariate multilevel analysis indicated that, at the individual level, after controlling for the stability of aggressive behavior, T2 (Time 2) reactive aggression was higher for students who reported lower moral identity and higher moral disengagement at T1 (Time 1). For proactive aggression, a significant interaction effect indicated that the negative association between T1 moral identity and T2 aggression was apparent only at high levels of T1 moral disengagement. Moreover, proactive aggression was significantly predicted by higher perceived collective moral disengagement. At the class-level, T1 collective moral disengagement helped explain between-class variability of T2 reactive and proactive aggressive behavior. How these results expand previous research on morality and aggressive behavior and their potential implications for prevention and intervention programs is discussed.