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Alycia Hund

Mentor Department



Temperament has been associated with aggressive behaviors (Rothbart, Ahadi, & Evans, 2000); however, the nature of this relationship would benefit from more specificity. This project focused on the temperament dimensions of shyness and inhibitory control. Shyness is marked by slow, avoidant, or inhibited approaches to novel social situations or uncertainty, whereas inhibitory control is the ability to “suppress inappropriate approach responses under instructions or in novel or uncertain situations” (Rothbard, Ahadi, & Hershey, 1994, p. 29). We tested two types of aggression evident in early childhood. Proactive aggression is characterized by expecting positive outcomes from aggression and involves many aspects of social interaction, whereas reactive aggression is more automatic and less verbal. We focused on age 4 years when children are beginning to prepare for the transition to kindergarten, which could present challenges for children who are shy or who have low inhibitory control, especially if these aspects are linked to aggression. We predicted that inhibitory control would be negatively correlated with aggression, whereas shyness might be positively correlated with aggression. To date, 72 parents of 4-year-old children reported their child’s temperament using the Short Version of the Children’s Behavior Questionnaire Shyness and Inhibitory Control subscales (Rothbart, Ahadi, Hershey, & Fisher, 2001). Additionally, parents completed the Proactive Reactive Aggression Questionnaire (Dodge & Coie, 1987). Participants were recruited from area preschools and organizations serving children and families. As predicted, Pearson correlations indicated that there was a significant negative correlation between inhibitory control and proactive aggression, r(70) = -.47, p < .001. Similarly, there was a significant negative correlation between inhibitory control and reactive aggression, r(70) = -.49, p < .001. These findings suggest that lower inhibitory control is related to higher proactive and reactive aggression. There was not a significant correlation between shyness and proactive aggression, r(70) = -.01, p =.963, or between shyness and reactive aggression, r(70) = -.01, p = .914. Differences in temperament affect how children regulate their mood and behavior. This study provides further evidence that low inhibitory control is associated with higher levels of both proactive and reactive aggression. In contrast, no significant associations were evident for shyness and aggression. These findings help clarify the nature of relations between temperament and aggression in early childhood.


Authors: Samantha Croney, Riley Cronin, Alycia Hund

Temperament and Aggression in Early Childhood

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