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