Child Psychiatry and Human Development

, Volume 33, Issue 4, pp 279-294

First online:

Gender Differences in Reactive and Proactive Aggression

  • Daniel F. ConnorAffiliated withDepartment of Psychiatry-7th Floor, Room S7-802, University of Massachusetts Medical School
  • , Ronald J. SteingardAffiliated withUniversity of Massachusetts Medical School
  • , Jennifer J. AndersonAffiliated withDevereux School
  • , Richard H. MelloniJr.Affiliated withNortheastern University

Rent the article at a discount

Rent now

* Final gross prices may vary according to local VAT.

Get Access


The purpose of our investigation was to study gender differences in proactive and reactive aggression in a sample of 323 clinically referred children and adolescents (68 females and 255 males). Proactive aggression and reactive aggression were assessed using the Proactive/Reactive Aggression Scale. Demographic, historical, family, diagnostic, and treatment variables were entered into stepwise regression analyses to determine correlates of proactive and reactive aggression in males and females. Results reveal high rates of aggression in both males and females in the sample. Self reported drug use, expressed hostility, and experiences of maladaptive parenting were correlated with proactive aggression for both genders. Hyperactive/impulsive behaviors were correlated with male reactive aggression. An early age of traumatic stress and a low verbal IQ were correlated with female proactive aggression. Gender differences in correlates of proactive and reactive aggression may provide possible targets for research, prevention, and treatment efforts focused on reducing maladaptive aggression in clinically referred youth.

proactive aggression reactive aggression children adolescents