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Violence Research Centre


The Michaelmas term has been very productive. As we enter the Lent term, here is a selection of the latest contributions by the VRC and its affiliated researchers. All publications are open access and free to read for everyone.


Teen dating violence

Eisner, Manuel (2021). The gender symmetry problem in physical teen dating violence: A commentary and suggestions for a research agenda. New Directions for Child and Adolescent Development 


Dating violence is a serious manifestation of harmful behaviour during adolescence. During the past decades, considerable research has shed light on patterns, causes, and consequences of dating violence. One of the most notable findings emerging from widely used survey instruments is that female adolescents report perpetrating physical dating violence more or equally frequently as male adolescents. Similarly, male youth appear to equally frequently report that they have been victims of physical dating violence as female adolescents. This commentary reviews issues emerging from the debate on gender symmetry in dating violence and proposes directions for future research. It suggests that future research needs to consider three interrelated issues to advance the field, namely: to improve the understanding of differences in harm, advance the knowledge of gender differences in the short-term dynamics involved in conflict and aggression, and strengthen the evidence base on shared and gender-specific developmental aetiologies of dating violence.


Substance use in young adults

Quednow B.B., Steinhoff A., Bechtiger L., Ribeaud D., Eisner M., Shanahan L. (2021). High Prevalence and Early Onsets: Legal and Illegal Substance Use in an Urban Cohort of Young Adults in Switzerland. European Addiction Research 


Introduction: Debates about the legalization of illegal substances (e.g., cannabis) continue around the globe. A key consideration in these debates is the adequate protection of young people, which could be informed by current prevalence and age-of-onset patterns. For Switzerland, such information is limited, which is particularly true for women, despite advanced political efforts to legalize cannabis. The objective of the current study was to investigate substance use prevalence rates and ages of onset in a community-representative sample of female and male young adults in Switzerland. Methods: Data came from the Zurich Project on the Social Development from Childhood to Adulthood (z-proso). In 2018, participants (N = 1,180, 50.8% females) were ∼20 years old. Lifetime and past-year use of alcohol, tobacco, cannabinoids, stimulants, hallucinogens, opioids, and benzodiazepines were assessed with an extensive substance use questionnaire. Additionally, ages of onsets of the respective substances were estimated by averaging participants’ self-reported ages of onsets from ages 13 to 20 (max. 4 assessments). Results: 57% of 20-year-olds had used cannabinoids, 16% stimulants, 15% opioids (mostly codeine), and 8% hallucinogens in the past year. Males had higher prevalence than females for most drugs; nevertheless, females’ prevalence rates were notably high. Legal substance use was typically initiated 1.3–2.7 years before legal selling age. Thus, almost half of the sample had consumed alcohol and tobacco by age 14. More than 40% of the total sample had smoked cannabis by age 16. Males initiated use of legal substances and cannabis earlier than females. Discussion: Our recent community-representative data suggested unexpectedly high levels and early onsets of substance use compared to a previous Swiss surveys and also the European average. Drug policy debates should consider urban substance use patterns when considering legalization efforts.


Aggressive behaviours and ADHD symptoms in childhood

Speyer, L.G., Eisner, M., Ribeaud, D., Luciano, M., Auyeung, B., Murray, A.lL. (2021). A symptom level perspective on reactive and proactive aggressive behaviours and ADHD symptoms in childhood. The Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry


Objective: Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) is one of the most prevalent childhood disorders, affecting around 3.4% of children worldwide. A common and impairing correlate of ADHD is aggressive behaviour. ADHD symptoms and aggression are both heterogeneous and it has been speculated that certain symptoms of ADHD might be more important in aggressive behaviours of different types than others. This study uses a symptom-level analysis to investigate the concurrent and temporal links between ADHD symptoms and aggressive behaviours. Methods: Using Gaussian Graphical Models and Graphical Vector Autoregression Models, longitudinal and cross-sectional networks of ADHD symptoms and aggressive behaviours, measured using parent-reported Social Behaviour Questionnaires, were estimated. Participants included 1,246 children taking part in the longitudinal Swiss z-proso cohort study at ages 7, 9 and 11. Results: The longitudinal network highlighted that ADHD symptoms and aggressive behaviours share a multitude of reciprocal temporal relations, with inattentive ADHD symptoms preceding both reactive and proactive aggression. Cross-sectional networks suggested that hyperactive/impulsive symptoms were predominantly connected to reactive aggressive behaviours but also to a form of proactive aggression, namely dominating other children. Conclusion: Findings provide preliminary evidence which specific symptoms are the most promising targets for reducing aggressive behaviours in children with ADHD. They also highlight the potential importance of targeting feedback loops resulting from aggressive behaviours. Future research is needed to better understand the mechanisms through which ADHD and aggressive behaviours become linked.


Other contributions on adolescent violence



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