Aggression in Preschool and Predictions of Peer Reactions; How Do Children Expect Their Peers to Feel in Response to Their Behaviors?




Mahoney, Amanda J.

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Children’s aggression at early ages is indicative of concurrent and future adjustment problems. The aggressive behaviors may be due to, for example, developmental delays, lack of experience in social situations, or the inability to understand social norms. Aggression in preschool is related to concurrent and later peer rejection, which tends to remain stable throughout elementary school, and feed into a cycle of aggressive behaviors and social impairment. Examining the development of aggression in preschool children is valuable to the understanding of how children view their own behaviors and how they believe others will respond to their behaviors. Data was collected from 364 preschool students from Northern Virginia via teacher-report, self-report, and behavioral observations. Results found that observed negative affect and negative reactions to frustration were significant predictors of teacher-rated anger/aggression. However, gender interacted with these variables and boys that were rated higher on anger/aggression showed more negative affect than boys rater lower on anger/aggression. This effect was not seen for females. Positive reactions to frustration was also found to be a small, yet significant predictor of teacher-rated anger/aggression. Teacher-rated anger/aggression was not found to be related to child reported feelings or behaviors in a challenging situation. Children who chose that they would react aggressively in a challenging situation tended to predict that their peer would feel sad in response to their aggression. Following avoidant behaviors, children most likely expected their peer to feel happy. Analyses revealed that girls who chose to cry or manipulate in a stressful situation most frequently predicted their peer to feel happy in response to their crying. Children who chose to respond prosocially tended to expect their peer to feel happy as a result of their behavior. The results of this study show that aggressive children may be able to understand that their aggressive behaviors will have negative social consequences. These aggressive behaviors may not be because of a lack of emotion knowledge, but related more to impulse control.



Preschool, Aggression, Emotion knowledge, Predicting emotions, Social expectations