Preschool-aged children’s beliefs and responses to hypothetical aggressive behaviours. (2020)
Type of ContentTheses / Dissertations
Thesis DisciplineHealth Sciences
Degree NameMaster of Arts
PublisherUniversity of Canterbury
AuthorsSansom, Hannahshow all
Previous research has demonstrated that aggressive preschool-aged children process social information differently (Helmsen & Petermann, 2010; Swit, McMaugh, & Warbuton, 2016). Research also shows that there is a high correlation between young children’s use of physical and relational aggression (Card, Stucky, Sawalani, & Little, 2008) and that some children engage in a combination of both physical and relational aggression, often called co- morbid aggression. However, previous research is limited in including this group of children in their exploration of social-cognitive differences in aggressive and non-aggressive children. This study fills this gap by examining the normative beliefs and behavioural responses to hypothetical relational and physical aggression scenarios in a sample of physically aggressive, relationally aggressive, co-morbidly aggressive and typically developing preschool-aged children, aged 3 to 5. Children’s normative beliefs and behavioural responses were assessed using a developmentally appropriate measure developed by Swit and colleagues (2016) which encouraged young children to use Duplo toy figurines to describe their perceptions of relational and physical aggression. The results of this study indicated that co-morbidly aggressive and relationally aggressive children perceived hypothetical physical aggression scenarios to be less acceptable compared to hypothetical relational aggression scenarios. In comparison, typically developing children and physically aggressive children perceived hypothetical physical aggression scenarios to be slightly more acceptable compared to hypothetical relational aggression scenarios. Moreover, relationally aggressive children were more likely to recommend prosocial problem-solving to respond to hypothetical peer conflict compared to the other three groups of children. In contrast, typically developing and physically aggressive children were more likely to recommend physically aggressive responses. Co-morbidly aggressive children recommended a combination of physical aggression and prosocial problem-solving behavioural responses. These findings make an important contribution to aggression literature by demonstrating the differences in the way aggressive and non-aggressive preschool-aged children perceive and respond to hypothetical scenarios of physical and relational aggression.