Journal of Abnormal Child Psychology

, Volume 35, Issue 4, pp 594–604

The Attribution of Hostile Intent in Mothers, Fathers and Their Children

Authors

    • School of Psychology and Clinical Language SciencesUniversity of Reading
  • Peter J. Cooper
    • School of Psychology and Clinical Language SciencesUniversity of Reading
  • Sarah J. Healy
    • School of Psychology and Clinical Language SciencesUniversity of Reading
  • Lynne Murray
    • School of Psychology and Clinical Language SciencesUniversity of Reading
Original Paper

DOI: 10.1007/s10802-007-9115-6

Cite this article as:
Halligan, S.L., Cooper, P.J., Healy, S.J. et al. J Abnorm Child Psychol (2007) 35: 594. doi:10.1007/s10802-007-9115-6

Abstract

Child externalising symptoms are associated with a bias towards attributing hostile intent to others. We examined the role of parental attributions in the development of this hostile attribution bias in children. The parents of 134 children aged 5–7 years responded to hypothetical social scenarios examining a) their general tendency to attribute hostile intent to the ambiguous behaviour of others, and b) hostile attributions made specifically to their child. Children's own attributions of hostile intent and levels of externalising symptomatology were assessed. The results indicated that child externalising symptoms were positively associated with both a generalised tendency towards the attribution of hostile intent and child-specific hostile attributions in parents. Child externalising symptoms were themselves associated with hostile attributions made by the child. However, no direct associations were observed between parental and child attributions of hostile intent. Thus, although the results suggest a role for parental social information processing biases in the development of child externalising symptoms, a direct transmission of such biases from parent to child was not supported.

Keywords

MothersFathersHostile attribution biasAggressionBehavioural disorderExternalising symptoms

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2007