August 10, 2011

Can best friends influence the link between a child's aggression and getting into trouble?

Fite, P.J., Rathert, J.L., Grassetti, S.N., Gaertner, A.E., Campion, S., Fite, J.L., & Vitulano, M.L. (2011). Longitudinal investigation of the link between proactive and reactive aggression and disciplinary actions in an after-school care program. Journal of Psychopathology and Behavioral Assessment, 33, 205-214.

Aggression can be viewed as either ‘reactive’ (a kind of hot-headed aggression, e.g. being knocked over and reacting by jumping up and hitting whoever knocked you over) or ‘proactive’ (a more calculated, premeditated type of aggression). The authors here were interested in the relationship between this and ‘disciplinary actions’, by which they mean notification of disciplinary problems to parents by after-school carers. They note that disciplinary action within school settings often seems to increase rather than decrease problem behaviour. No research has examined after school settings and disciplinary actions though. Finally, these researchers were interested to see whether how delinquent a young person’s best friend was also influenced aggression – and, crucially, whether the best friend’s delinquency level acted as a risk factor which combined with after-school disciplinary actions to increase aggression.

147 young people aged 5 to 13 years old took part, all of whom were attending an after-school program in the USA. Information was collected once at baseline, and then a second time two months later. Self-report questionnaires were completed by all children (with help where needed). Measures were taken of proactive and reactive aggression and best friend’s delinquency at the first data collection. At both the first and second data collection, disciplinary actions were taken from formal chart reviews – these included reports of things like fighting, swearing, property damage and stealing.

Taking into account the initial level of disciplinary actions, best friend delinquency was not a predictor of later level of disciplinary actions. Reactive aggression did predict later level of disciplinary actions, and this effect did not differ according to how delinquent a best friend was. However, proactive aggression was only a predictor of level of disciplinary actions when a child’s best friend had low levels of delinquency; when the best friend had high levels of delinquency, proactive aggression did not predict level of disciplinary actions.

These results indicate that it is important to identify reactive aggression and to help children to better deal with the impulses and thoughts associated with this. The authors suggest that proactively aggression children who are in groups of delinquent peers may get in less trouble because they can manipulate others into being troublesome. In contrast, proactively aggressive children with non-delinquent peers may end up being the troublesome child and hence end up getting into trouble.

No comments:

Post a Comment