Article

Journal of Abnormal Child Psychology

, Volume 38, Issue 8, pp 1109-1123

Interactive Links Between Theory of Mind, Peer Victimization, and Reactive and Proactive Aggression

  • Annie RenoufAffiliated withDepartment of Psychology, University of Quebec at MontrealSte-Justine Hospital Research Center
  • , Mara BrendgenAffiliated withDepartment of Psychology, University of Quebec at MontrealSte-Justine Hospital Research Center Email author 
  • , Jean R. SéguinAffiliated withSte-Justine Hospital Research CenterDepartment of Psychiatry, University of Montreal
  • , Frank VitaroAffiliated withSte-Justine Hospital Research CenterSchool of Psychoeducation, University of Montreal
  • , Michel BoivinAffiliated withSte-Justine Hospital Research CenterDepartment of Psychology, Laval University
  • , Ginette DionneAffiliated withDepartment of Psychology, Laval University
  • , Richard E. TremblayAffiliated withSte-Justine Hospital Research CenterDepartments of Psychology, and Pediatrics, University of MontrealInternational Laboratory for Child and Adolescent Mental Health Development, INSERM U669, France and University of MontrealSchool of Public Health and Population Science, University College Dublin
  • , Daniel PérusseAffiliated withSte-Justine Hospital Research CenterDepartment of Anthropology, University of Montreal

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Abstract

This study investigated the relation between theory of mind and reactive and proactive aggression, respectively, as well as the moderating role of peer victimization in this context. The 574 participants were drawn from a longitudinal study of twins. Theory of mind was assessed before school entry, when participants were 5 years old. Reactive and proactive aggression as well as peer victimization were assessed a year later in kindergarten. Results from multilevel regression analyses revealed that low theory of mind was related to a high level of reactive aggression, but only in children who experienced average to high levels of peer victimization. In contrast, a high theory of mind was related to a high level of proactive aggression. Again, this relation was especially pronounced in children who experienced high levels of peer victimization. These findings challenge the social skills deficit view of aggression and provide support for a multidimensional perspective of aggressive behavior.

Keywords

Theory of mind Reactive and proactive aggression Peer victimization