Teacher and Parent Perceptions of Relational and Physical Aggression During Early Childhood

Abstract

Although links have been found between parents’ and teachers’ (caregivers’) attitudes about aggressive behavior, their responses to aggressive behaviour in children, and those children’s own use of aggressive behaviour, most research has focused on primary and secondary school contexts and has examined the influence of parents and teachers separately. The current study explored both parents’ and teachers’ beliefs and intervention strategies for relational and physical aggression in early childhood settings. Teachers (N = 18; Mage = 34.8 years) and parents (N = 68; Mage = 32.2 years) were presented with vignettes portraying relational and physical aggression. Following each vignette, their perceptions of the seriousness of the act, empathy for the victim, likelihood to intervene, and intervention strategies used to respond to each vignette were assessed. Teachers were also interviewed about examples of aggression that have been seen in preschool age children. Results indicated that caregivers viewed relational compared to physical aggression as more normative, and had less empathy for, and were less likely to intervene in instances of relationally aggressive behaviour. They also recommended more passive intervention strategies towards relationally aggressive children and more direct strategies towards physically aggressive children. Interview responses indicated that teachers perceived the primary cause of aggression to be related to developmental characteristics of the child. Implications for how these findings about adult–child interactions impact the development of relational and physical aggression are discussed.

This is a preview of subscription content, log in to check access.

Fig. 1
Fig. 2

References

  1. Ambrose, H. N., & Menna, R. (2013). Physical and relational aggression in young children: The role of mother-child interactional synchrony. Early Child Development and Care, 183, 207–222. doi:10.1080/03004430.2012.669756.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  2. Anderson, C. A., & Bushman, B. J. (2002). Human aggression. Annual Review of Psychology, 53, 27–51. doi:10.1146/annurev.psych.53.100901.135231.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  3. Atlas, R. S., & Pepler, D. J. (1998). Observations of bullying in the classroom. Journal of Educational Research, 92, 86–97. doi:10.1080/00220679809597580.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  4. Australian Bureau of Statistics. (2011). Australian Social Trends: September 2011. Retrieved from: http://www.ausstats.abs.gov.au/ausstats/subscriber.nsf/LookupAttach/4102.0Publication21.09.114/$File/41020_Community_Sep2011.pdf.

  5. Bandura, A. (1989). Social cognitive theory. In R. Vasta (Ed.), Annals of child development. Vol. 6. Six theories of child development (pp. 1–60). Greenwich, CT: JAI Press.

    Google Scholar 

  6. Bandura, A. (2001). Social cognitive theory: An agentic perspective. Annual Review of Psychology, 52, 1–26. doi:10.1146/annurev.psych.52.1.1.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  7. Bauman, S., & Del Rio, A. (2006). Preservice teachers’ responses to bullying scenarios: Comparing physical, verbal, and relational bullying. Journal of Educational Psychology, 98, 219–231. doi:10.1037/0022-0663.98.1.219.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  8. Baxter, J., & Hand, K. (2013). Access to early childhood education in Australia (Research Report No. 24). Melbourne: Australian Institute of Family Studies.

    Google Scholar 

  9. Birch, S. H., & Ladd, G. W. (1998). Children’s interpersonal behaviors and the teacher-child relationship. Developmental Psychology, 34, 934–946.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  10. Bjoerkqvist, K., Lagerspetz, K. M. J., & Kaukiainen, A. (1992). Do girls manipulate and boys fight? Developmental trends in regard to direct and indirect aggression. Aggressive Behavior, 18, 117–127. doi: 10.1002/1098-2337(1992)18:2<117::AID-AB2480180205>3.0.CO;2-3.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  11. Bjorkqvist, K. (1994). Sex differences in physical, verbal, and indirect aggression: A review of recent research. Sex roles, 30, 177–188.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  12. Boxer, P., Musher-Eizenman, D., Dubow, E. F., Danner, S., & Heretick, D. M. L. (2006). Assessing teachers’ perceptions for school-based aggression prevention programs: Applying a cognitive-ecological framework. Psychology in the Schools, 43, 331–344. doi:10.1002/pits.20144.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  13. Byers, D. L., Caltabiano, N. J., & Caltabiano, M. L. (2011). Teachers’ attitudes towards overt and covert bullying, and perceived efficacy to intervene. Australian Journal of Teacher Education, 36, 105–119. doi:10.14221/ajte.2011v36n11.1.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  14. Card, N. A., Stucky, B. D., Sawalani, G. M., & Little, T. D. (2008). Overt and relational forms of aggression during childhood and adolescence: A meta-analytic review of sex differences, intercorrelations, and relations to maladjustment. Child Development, 79, 1185–1229. doi:10.1111/j.1467-8624.2008.01184.x.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  15. Casas, J. F., Weigel, S. M., Crick, N. R., Ostrov, J. M., Woods, K. E., Jansen-Yen, E. A., & Huddleston-Casas, C. A. (2006). Early parenting and children’s relational and physical aggression in the preschool and home contexts. Applied Developmental Psychology, 27, 209–227. doi:10.1016/j.appdev.2006.02.003.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  16. Colwell, M. J., Mize, J., Pettit, G. S., & Laird, R. D. (2002). Contextual determinants of mothers’ interventions in young children’s peer interactions. Developmental Psychology, 38, 492–502. doi: 10.1037//0012-1649.38.4.492.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  17. Craig, W. M., Henderson, K., & Murphy, J. G. (2000). Prospective teachers’ attitudes toward bullying and victimisation. School Psychology International, 21, 5–21. doi:10.1177/0143034300211001.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  18. 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.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  19. Crick, N., Casas, J., & Mosher, M. (1997). Relational and overt aggression in preschool. Developmental Psychology, 33, 579–588.

  20. De Wet, C. (2007). Educator’s perceptions on bullying prevention strategies. South African Journal of Education, 27, 91–208.

    Google Scholar 

  21. Goldstein, S. E., & Boxer, P. (2013). Parenting practices and the early socialisation of relational aggression among preschoolers. Early Child Development and Care, 183, 1559–1575. doi:10.1080/03004430.2012.738200.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  22. Gower, A. L., Lingras, K. A., Mathieson, L. C., Kawabata, Y., & Crick, N. (2014). The role of preschool relational and physical aggression in the transition to Kindergarten: Links with social-psychological adjustment. Early Education and Development, 25, 619–640. doi:10.1080/10409289.2014.844058.

    Article  PubMed  PubMed Central  Google Scholar 

  23. Hamre, B. K., & Pianta, R. C. (2001). Early teacher–child relationships and the trajectory of children’s school outcomes through eighth grade. Child Development, 72, 625–638. doi: 0009-3920/2001/7202-0020.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  24. Harrison, L., Ungerer, J. A., Smith, G. J., Zubrick, S., Wise, S., Press, F., & Waniganayake, M. (2009). Child care and early education in Australia: The Longitudinal Study of Australian Children. Canberra: Dept. of Families, Housing, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs.

    Google Scholar 

  25. Huesmann, L. R. (1998). The role of social information processing and cognitive schema in the acquisition and maintenance of habitual aggression behavior. In R. E. Geen & E. Donnerstein (Eds.), Human Aggression: Theories, Research, and Implications for Policy (pp. 73–109). New York: Academic Press.

    Google Scholar 

  26. Hughes, J. N., Cavell, T. A., & Jackson, T. (1999). Influence of teacher–student relationship on childhood aggression: A prospective study. Journal of Clinical Child Psychology, 28, 173–184. doi:10.1037/0022-0663.99.1.39.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  27. Hurd, H. D., & Gettinger, M. (2011). Mothers’ and teachers’ perceptions of relational and physical aggression in pre-school children. Early Child Development and Care, 181, 1343–1359. doi:10.1080/03004430.2010.527336.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  28. Kawabata, Y., Alink, L. A., Tseng, W., Van Ijzendoorn, M. H., & Crick, N. R. (2011). Maternal and paternal parenting styles associated with relational aggression in children and adolescents: A conceptual analysis and meta-analytic review. Developmental Review, 31, 240–278. doi:10.1016/j.dr.2011.08.001.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  29. Lakens, D. (2013). Calculating and reporting effect sizes to facilitate cumulative science: a practical primer for t-tests and ANOVAs. Frontiers in Psychology, 4, Article 963. 10.3389/fpsyg.2013.00863

  30. Li, Y., Coplan, R. J., Archbell, K. A., Bullock, A., & Chen, L. (2016). Chinese kindergarten teachers’ beliefs about young children’s classroom social behavior. Early Childhood Research Quarterly, 36, 122–132. doi:10.1016/j.ecresq.2015.10.008.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  31. McEvoy, M., Estrem, T., Rodriguez, M., & Olson, M. (2003). Assessing relational and physical aggression among preschool children: Intermethod agreement. Topics in Early Childhood Special Education, 23, 51–61. doi:10.1177/02711214030230020101.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  32. Merritt, E. G., Wanless, S. B., Rimm-Kaufman, S. E., Cameron, C., & Peugh, J. L. (2012). The contribution of teachers’ emotional support to children’s social behaviors and self-regulatory skills in first grade. School Psychology Review, 41, 141–159.

    Google Scholar 

  33. Mishna, F., Scarcello, I., Pepler, D., & Wiener, J. (2005). Teachers understanding of bullying. Canadian Journal of Education, 28, 718–738. doi: 137.111.226.20.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  34. Murray-Close, D., Ostrov, J. M., & Crick, N. R. (2007). A short-term longitudinal study of growth of relational aggression during middle childhood. Associations with gender, friendship intimacy, and internalising problems. Development and Psychopathology, 19, 187–203. doi:10.1017/S0954579407070101.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  35. Mize, J., Pettit, G. S., & Brown, E. G. (1995). Mothers’ supervision of their children’s peer play: Relations with beliefs, perceptions, and knowledge. Developmental Psychology, 31, 311–321.

  36. Nelson, D. A., & Crick, N. R. (2002). Parental psychological control: Implications for childhood physical and relational aggression. In B. Barber (Ed.), Intrusive parenting: How psychological control affects children and adolescents (pp. 161–189). Washington, DC: American Psychological Association (APA) Books.

    Google Scholar 

  37. Nelson, D. A., Robinson, C. C., & Hart, C. H. (2005). Relational and physical aggression of preschool-age children: Peer status linkages across informants. Early Education and Development, 16, 115–139. doi:10.1207/s15566935eed1602_2.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  38. Nelson, D. A., Yang, C., Coyne, S. M., Olsen, J. A., & Hart, C. H. (2013). Parental psychological control dimensions: Connections with Russian preschoolers’ physical and relational aggression. Journal of Applied Developmental Psychology, 34, 1–8. doi:10.1016/j.appdev.201207.003.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  39. Owens, L., Shute, R., & Slee, P. (2000). “Guess what I just heard!”: Indirect aggression among teenage girls in Australia. Aggressive Behavior, 26, 67–83. doi: 10.1002/(SICI)1098-2337(2000)26:1<67::AID-AB6>3.0.CO;2-C.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  40. Pianta, R. C. (1999). Enhancing relationships between children and teachers. Washington, DC: American Psychological Association.

    Google Scholar 

  41. Pianta, R. C., & Stuhlman, M. W. (2004). Teacher-child relationships and children’s success in the first year of school. School Psychology Review, 33, 444–458.

    Google Scholar 

  42. Porter, C., Hart, C., Yang, C., Zeng, Q., & Robinson, C. (2002). An exploratory study of child temperament and parenting. Chinese and US comparisons. Paper under review and presented at the XVIth Biennial Meeting of the International Society for the Study of Behavioral Development, Beijing, China, July 11-14, 2000.

  43. Prinstein, M. J., Boergers, J., & Vernberg, E. M. (2001). Overt and relational aggression in adolescents: Social-psychological adjustment of aggressors and victims. Journal of Clinical Child Psychology, 30, 479–491. doi:10.1207/S15374424JCCP3004_05.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  44. Richardson, P., & Watt, H. (2006). Who chooses teaching and why? Profiling characteristics and motivations across three Australian universities. Asia-Pacific Journal of Teacher Education, 24, 27–56. doi:10.1080/13598660500480290.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  45. Rimm-Kaufman, S. E., Curby, T., Grimm, K., Nathanson, L., & Brock, L. (2009). The contribution of children’s self-regulation and classroom quality to children’s adaptive behaviors in the kindergarten classroom. Developmental Psychology, 45(4), 958–972. doi:10.1037/a0015861.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  46. Russell, A., Hart, C. H., Robinson, C., & Olsen, S. F. (2003). Children’s sociable and aggression behavior with peers: A comparison of the U.S. and Australia, and contributions of temperament and parenting styles. International Journal of Behavioral Development, 27, 74–86. doi:10.1080/01650250244000038.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  47. Swit, C., & McMaugh, A. (2012). Relational aggression and prosocial behaviors in Australian preschool children. Australasian Journal of Early Childhood, 37, 30–34.

    Google Scholar 

  48. Swit, C., McMaugh, A., & Warburton, W. (2016). Preschool children’s beliefs about the acceptability of relational and physical aggression. International Journal of Early Childhood, 48, 111–127. doi:10.1007/s13158-016-0155-3.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  49. Tremblay, R. (1999). When children’s social development fails. In D. P. Keating & C. Hertzman (Eds.), Developmental health and the wealth of nations: Social, biological, and educational dynamics (pp. 55–71). New York: The Guilford Press.

    Google Scholar 

  50. Tremblay, R. (2010). Developmental origins of disruptive behavior problems: The ‘original sin’ hypothesis, epigenetics and their consequences for prevention. Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry, 51, 341–367. doi:10.1111/j.1469-7610.2010.02211.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  51. Tremblay, R. E. (2016). The development of aggressive behaviour during childhood: What have we learned in the past century?. International Journal of Behavioral Development, 24(2), 129–141.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  52. Vitaro, F., Brendgen, M., & Barker, E. D. (2006). Subtypes of aggression behaviour: A developmental perspective. International Journal of Behavioral Development, 30, 12–19. doi:10.1177/0165025406059968.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  53. Waasdorp, T. E., & Bradshaw, C. (2009). Child and parent perceptions of relational aggression within urban predominantly African American children’s friendships: examining patterns of concordance. Journal of Child and Family Studies, 18, 731–745.

  54. Werner, N. E., & Grant, S. (2009). Maternal cognitions about relational aggression: Associations with power assertion, children’s normative beliefs, and peer competence. Social Development, 18, 77–98. doi:10.1111/j.1467-9507.2008.00482.x.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  55. Werner, N. E., Senich, S., & Przepyszny, K. A. (2006). Mothers’ responses to preschoolers’ relational and physical aggression. Applied Developmental Psychology, 27, 193–208. doi:10.1016/j.appdev.2006.02.002.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  56. Yoon, J. (2004). Predicting teacher interventions in bullying situations. Education and Treatment of Children, 27, 34–45.

    Google Scholar 

  57. Young, E., Boye, A., & Nelson, D. (2006). Relational aggression: understanding, identifying, and responding in schools. Psychology in the School, 43, 297–312. doi:10.1002/pits.20148.

    Article  Google Scholar 

Download references

Author Contributions

C.S.: collected the original data and prepared this manuscript. C.S., A.M. and W.W. contributed to the concepts, design, analysis and writing and editing of this manuscript.

Author information

Affiliations

Authors

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Cara S. Swit.

Ethics declarations

Conflict of Interest

The authors declare that they have no competing interests.

Ethical Approval

All procedures performed in studies involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institutional (Macquarie University) and/or national research committee and with the 1964 Helsinki declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards.

Informed Consent

Informed consent was obtained from all individual participants included in the study.

Additional information

Declaration: This manuscript is an original work that has not been submitted to nor published anywhere else.

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Verify currency and authenticity via CrossMark

Cite this article

Swit, C.S., McMaugh, A.L. & Warburton, W.A. Teacher and Parent Perceptions of Relational and Physical Aggression During Early Childhood. J Child Fam Stud 27, 118–130 (2018). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10826-017-0861-y

Download citation

Keywords

  • Relational Aggression
  • Physical Aggression
  • Teacher Perceptions
  • Parent Perceptions
  • Early Childhood