Longitudinal links of individual and collective morality with adolescents’ peer aggression

Gianluca Gini*, Robert Thornberg, Kay Bussey, Federica Angelini, Tiziana Pozzoli

*Corresponding author for this work

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    4 Citations (Scopus)
    8 Downloads (Pure)


    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.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)524-539
    Number of pages16
    JournalJournal of Youth and Adolescence
    Issue number3
    Early online date18 Oct 2021
    Publication statusPublished - Mar 2022

    Bibliographical note

    Copyright the Author(s) 2021. Version archived for private and non-commercial use with the permission of the author/s and according to publisher conditions. For further rights please contact the publisher.


    • reactive aggression
    • proactive aggression
    • moral identity
    • moral disengagement
    • class norms


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