Journal of Child and Family Studies

, Volume 24, Issue 3, pp 821–831 | Cite as

Relationship of Aggression to Anxiety, Depression, Anger, and Empathy in Hong Kong

  • Annis L. C. Fung
  • Lawrence H. GersteinEmail author
  • Yuichung Chan
  • Jackie Engebretson
Original Paper


In the United States, a distinction between proactive (deliberate aggressive behavior aimed at influencing others) and reactive (defensive response to provocation) aggression has been documented. Further, investigators have discovered an association between cognitive, social, and emotional variables and these two types of aggression. This study investigated this relationship with 251 (males = 170; females = 81) proactive and reactive aggressive Hong Kong secondary students (M age = 13.07; SD = 1.38). Canonical analyses revealed proactive aggression was negatively related to transposing oneself into feelings and actions of fictional characters, feeling warmth and concern for others, and feeling discomfort in reaction to others’ emotions. Reactive aggression, in contrast, was positively associated with experiencing and expressing anger without specific provocation, expressing anger when provoked, suppressing anger, expressing anger towards others or objects, and feeling anxiety-depression. Implications to address the aggression of students in Hong Kong and elsewhere are discussed.


Aggression Anxiety Depression Empathy Hong Kong 


  1. Achenbach, T. M. (1991). Manual for the child behavior Checklist/4-18 and 1991 profile. Burlington: University of Vermont Department of Psychiatry.Google Scholar
  2. Bandura, A. (1996). Failures in self-regulation: Energy depletion or selective disengagement? Psychological Inquiry, 7, 20–24.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Berkowitz, L. (1989). Frustration-aggression hypothesis: Examination and reformulation. Psychological Bulletin, 106, 59–73.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  4. Card, N. A., & Little, T. D. (2006). Proactive and reactive aggression in childhood and adolescence: A meta-analysis of differential relations with psychosocial adjustment. International Journal of Behavioral Development, 30(5), 466–480.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Cornell, D. G., Warren, J., Hawk, G., Stafford, E., Oram, G., & Pine, D. (1996). Psychopathy in instrumental & reactive violent offenders. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 64, 783–790.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  6. Crick, N. R., & Dodge, K. A. (1994). A review and reformulation of social information-processing mechanisms in children’s social adjustment. Psychological Bulletin, 115, 74–101.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Crick, N. R., & Dodge, K. A. (1996). Social information-processing mechanisms in reactive proactive aggression. Child Development, 67, 993–1002.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  8. Davis, M. H. (1980). A multidimensional approach to individual differences in empathy. JSAS Catalog of Selected Documents in Psychology, 10, 85.Google Scholar
  9. Davis, M. H. (1983). Measuring individual differences in empathy: Evidence for a multidimensional approach. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 44, 113–126.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Day, D. M., Bream, L. A., & Pal, A. (1992). Proactive and reactive aggression: An analysis of subtypes based on teacher perceptions. Journal of Clinical Child and Adolescent Psychology, 21, 210–217.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. de Castro, B. O., Merk, W., Koops, W., Veerman, J. W., & Bosch, J. D. (2005). Emotions in social information processing and their relations with reactive and proactive aggression in referred aggressive boys. Journal of Clinical Child and Adolescent Psychology, 34, 105–116.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  12. Dodge, K. A. (1986). A social information processing model of social competence in children. In M. R. Perlmutter (Ed.), Cognitive perspectives on children’s social and behavioral development (pp. 77–120). Hillsdale, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.Google Scholar
  13. Dodge, K. A. (1991). The structure and function of reactive and proactive aggression. In D. J. Pepler & K. H. Rubin (Eds.), The development and treatment of childhood aggression (pp. 201–216). Hillsdale, NJ: Erlbaum.Google Scholar
  14. Dodge, K. A., & Coie, J. D. (1987). Social-information-processing factors in reactive and proactive aggression in children’s peer groups. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 53, 1146–1158.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  15. Dodge, K. A., & Crick, N. R. (1990). Social information-processing bases of aggressive behavior in children. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 16, 8–22.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Dodge, K. A., Lochman, J. E., Harnish, J. D., Bates, J. E., & Pettit, G. S. (1997). Reactive and proactive aggression in school children and psychiatrically impaired chronically assaultive youth. Journal of Abnormal Psychology, 106, 37–51.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  17. Feshbach, S. (1964). The function of aggression and the regulation of aggressive drive. Psychological Review, 71, 257–272.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  18. Feshbach, N., & Feshbach, S. (1969). The relationship between empathy and aggression in two age groups. Developmental Psychology, 1, 102–107.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Frasure-Smith, N., Lesperance, F., & Talajic, M. (1995). The impact of negative emotions on prognosis following myocardial infarction: Is it more than depression? Health Psychology, 14, 388–398.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  20. Frick, P. J., Cornell, A. H., Barry, C. T., Bodin, S. D., & Dane, H. E. (2003). Callous-unemotional traits and conduct problems in the prediction of conduct problem severity, aggression, and self-report of delinquency. Journal of Abnormal Child Psychology, 31, 457–470.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  21. Fung, A. L. C. (2010). Difference in cognitive beliefs underlying proactive and reactive aggression. Unpublished manuscript. Kowloon, Hong Kong: City University of Hong Kong.Google Scholar
  22. Fung, A. L. C., Raine, A., & Gao, Y. (2009). Cross-cultural generalizability of the Reactive-Proactive Aggression Questionnaire (RAQ). Journal of Personality Assessment, 91, 473–479.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  23. Hubbard, J. A., Dodge, K. A., Cillessen, A. H. N., Coie, J. D., & Schwartz, D. (2001). The dyadic nature of social information processing in boys’ reactive and proactive aggression. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 80, 268–280.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  24. Hubbard, J. A., Smithmyer, C. M., Ramsden, S. R., Parker, E. H., Flanagan, K. D., Dearing, K. F., et al. (2002). Observational, physiological, and self-report measures of children’s anger: Relations to reactive versus proactive aggression. Child Development, 73, 1101–1118.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  25. John, O. P., & Gross, J. J. (2004). Healthy and unhealthy emotion regulation: Personality processes, individual differences, and life span development. Journal of Personality, 72, 1301–1334.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  26. Kaplan, H. B., & Johnson, R. J. (1991). Negative social sanctions and juvenile delinquency: Effects of labeling in a model of deviant behavior. Social Science Quarterly, 72, 98–122.Google Scholar
  27. Katsuma, L., & Yamasaki, K. (2008). The effects of three types of aggression on empathy in elementary school children. Japanese Journal of Psychology, 79(4), 325–332.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  28. Kempes, M., Matthys, W., de Vries, H., & van Engeland, H. (2005). Reactive and proactive aggression in children: A review of theory, findings and the relevance for child and adolescent psychiatry. European Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, 14(1), 11–19.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  29. Leung, P. W. L., Kwong, S. L., Tang, C. P., Ho, T. P., Hung, S. F., Lee, C. C., et al. (2006). Test-retest reliability & criterion validity of the Chinese version of CBCL, TRF, & YSR. Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry, 47, 970–973.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  30. Marsee, M. A., Weems, C. F., & Taylor, L. K. (2008). Exploring the association between aggression and anxiety in youth: A look at aggressive subtypes, gender, and social cognition. Journal of Child and Family Studies, 17(1), 154–168.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Mayberry, M. L., & Espelage, D. L. (2007). Associations among empathy, social competence, and reactive/proactive aggression subtypes. Journal of Youth and Adolescence, 36, 787–798.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. McAuliffe, M. D., Hubbard, J. A., Rubin, R. M., Morrow, M. T., & Dearing, K. F. (2007). Reactive and proactive aggression: Stability of constructs and relations to correlates. Journal of Genetic Psychology, 167, 365–382.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Pedhazur, E. J. (1982). Multiple regression in behavioral research: Explanation and prediction. New York: Holt, Rinehart, and Winston.Google Scholar
  34. Polman, H., de Castro, B. O., Koops, W., van Boxtel, H. W., & Merk, W. W. (2007). A meta-analysis of the distinction between reactive and proactive aggression in children and adolescents. Journal of Abnormal Child Psychology, 35, 522–535.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  35. Prinstein, M. J., & Cillessen, A. H. N. (2003). Forms and functions of adolescent peer aggression associated with high levels of peer status. Merrill-Palmer Quarterly, 49(3), 310–343.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Raine, A., Dodge, K., Loeber, R., Gatzke-Kopp, L., Lynam, D., Reynolds, C., et al. (2006). The reactive-proactive aggression questionnaire: Differential correlates of reactive and proactive aggression in adolescent boys. Aggressive Behavior, 32(2), 159–171.CrossRefPubMedCentralPubMedGoogle Scholar
  37. Shields, A., & Cicchetti, D. (1998). Reactive aggression among maltreated children: The contributions of attention and emotion dysregulation. Journal of Clinical Child & Adolescent Psychology, 27, 381–395.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Smithmyer, C. M., Hubbard, J. A., & Simons, R. F. (2000). Proactive and reactive aggression in delinquent adolescents: Relations to aggression outcomes expectancies. Journal of Clinical Child Psychology, 29, 86–93.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  39. Spielberger, C. (1988). Manual for the state-trait anger expression inventory (STAXI). Odessa, FL: Psychological Assessment Resources.Google Scholar
  40. Vitaro, F., Brendgen, M., & Tremblay, R. E. (2002). Reactively and proactively aggressive children: Antecedent and subsequent characteristics. Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry, 43, 495–505.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  41. Wilkowski, B. M., & Robinson, M. D. (2008). Guarding against hostile thoughts: Trait anger and the recruitment of cognitive control. Emotion, 8, 578–583.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  42. Xu, Y., Farver, J. A. M., & Zhang, Z. (2009). Temperament, harsh and indulgent parenting, and Chinese children’s proactive and reactive aggression. Child Development, 80, 244–258.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  43. Xu, Y., & Zhang, Z. (2008). Distinguishing proactive and reactive aggression in Chinese children. Journal of Abnormal Child Psychology, 36, 539–552.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  • Annis L. C. Fung
    • 2
  • Lawrence H. Gerstein
    • 1
    Email author
  • Yuichung Chan
    • 3
  • Jackie Engebretson
    • 3
  1. 1.Center for Peace and Conflict StudiesBall State UniversityMuncieUSA
  2. 2.City University of Hong KongKowloonHong Kong
  3. 3.Ball State UniversityMuncieUSA

Personalised recommendations