Children’s Attitudes toward Aggression: Associations with Depression, Aggression, and Perceived Maternal/Peer Responses to Anger


Little is known about factors that influence children’s attitudes toward aggression, despite evidence that these attitudes are influential in promoting violent behaviors. The purpose of the present research was to examine the relation of self, peer, and parent social factors to school-age children’s maladaptive attitudes toward aggression. Specifically, symptoms of depression, peer overt aggression behaviors, and perceptions of maternal and peer responses to anger were evaluated as important factors associated with the use of aggression. These factors were examined separately for boys and girls, as research has consistently documented gender differences in the form and use of aggression. Hierarchical regression models were computed separately for boys and girls in grades three through five (N = 167), with child-reported depression, peer-nominated overt aggression, and child-reported maternal and best friend responses to anger examined as predictors of maladaptive attitudes toward aggression. For girls, depressive symptoms positively predicted maladaptive attitudes toward aggression. For boys, the extent of peer-reported overt aggression (positively) and child-reported supportive maternal responses to the child’s anger (negatively) predicted maladaptive attitudes toward aggression. The value of examining social factors that relate to attitudes toward aggression is discussed as well as consideration of gender differences in these relations. In addition, discussion includes how these results highlight important targets for interventions that may be especially relevant for school-age girls and boys.

Publication Title

Journal of Child and Family Studies