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The correlates of proactive and reactive aggression in early childhood

Publication Date
  • Behavior Disorders In Children--United States
  • Aggressiveness In Children
  • Economics


"The study of childhood aggression increasingly examines the developmental trajectories of different types of aggression. While a variety of subtyping systems exist for defining aggression, most systems seem to be consistently defining proactive (i.e. bullying, unprovoked aggression) and reactive (i.e. impulsive, in retaliation) subtypes. Keenan and Shaw (2003) have developed a causal theory which attributes infant over or underarousal, paired with caregiving that is insensitive to the needs of the child, as setting the child on either one of the aggressive pathways. The current study tests a piece of Keenan and Shaw's theory by examining child and parent correlates of proactive and reactive aggression in an early childhood sample rated as having high levels of aggression by their parents and teachers. Child variables included emotion regulation and negative emotionality. Parent variables included corporal punishment, inconsistent discipline, punitive parenting, interparental violence, and harsh physical discipline. Other demographic variables were considered, including socioeconomic status, maternal age, and child gender. Results suggest that proactive aggression is not a frequent phenomenon in early childhood, even among aggressive children, and in our study no variables uniquely predicted the subtypes. Significant limitations of the study, as well as clinical implications and future directions for research are discussed."--Abstract from author supplied metadata.

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