Preschool Children’s Beliefs About the Acceptability of Relational and Physical Aggression

Abstract

This research examined differences in beliefs about the acceptability of aggression and behavioral responses to aggression of preschool-aged children. Two groups, identified from teacher ratings, participated in the research. One group of children exhibited relationally aggressive behaviors, and a comparison group was identified with non-aggressive behaviors. Children’s social skills were assessed through observations. Beliefs about the acceptability of aggression and behavioral responses to aggression were assessed using four vignettes presented with toy figures. Children were encouraged to use the figurines to verbalize or enact responses. Children’s responses were analyzed and could be categorized as problem-solving or aggressive responses. There were no significant differences between groups on beliefs about the acceptability of aggression. However, younger children held more accepting beliefs about aggression. The methodological technique identified that relationally aggressive children used more problem-solving and conflict resolution strategies compared to children in the comparison group. These findings have important implications for educators in recognizing that not all forms of aggression are associated with fewer prosocial problem-solving skills. Methodological techniques employed in this study are recommended for use in the delivery of intervention programs aimed at reducing aggressive behaviors of preschool children.

Résumé

Cette recherche a examiné les différences de croyances chez les enfants d’âge préscolaire en ce qui concerne l’acceptabilité de l’agression et des comportements en réponse à l’agression. Deux groupes, constitués à partir des évaluations de l’enseignant, ont participé à la recherche. Les enfants d’un groupe montraient des comportements relationnels agressifs, tandis que ceux du groupe de comparaison avaient des comportements non agressifs. Les compétences sociales des enfants étaient évaluées par observation. Les croyances relatives à l’acceptabilité des réponses d’agression et de comportement à l’agression étaient évaluées à l’aide de courts scénarios mettant en scène des figurines. Les enfants étaient invités à utiliser les figurines pour verbaliser ou jouer leurs réponses. Les réponses des enfants ont été analysées et ont pu être réparties en deux catégories: réponses de résolution de problème ou agressives. Il n’y avait pas de différence significative entre les croyances des groupes relativement à l’acceptabilité de l’agression. Cependant, les enfants plus jeunes montraient une plus grande acceptation de l’agression dans leurs croyances. La méthodologie utilisée a permis de relever que les enfants ayant des relations agressives utilisaient plus souvent des stratégies de résolution de problèmes et de conflits que les enfants du groupe de comparaison. Ces résultats pourraient avoir des implications importantes pour les éducateurs en reconnaissant que toutes les formes d’agression ne sont pas forcément associées à moins d’habiletés sociales de résolution de problème. Il est recommandé que les techniques méthodologiques utilisées dans cette étude le soient aussi dans l’offre de programmes d’interventions visant à réduire les comportements agressifs d’enfants d’âge préscolaire

Resumen

Esta investigación examina las diferencias en las creencias acerca de cómo la agresión en niños de edad preescolar es aceptada y abordada. Dos grupos, identificados a partir de las categorizaciones de los maestros, participaron en la investigación. El primer grupo es el que fue identificado por mostrar conductas agresivas relacionales. El segundo es el de comparación. Las habilidades sociales de los niños fueron evaluadas a través de observaciones. Las creencias acerca de la aceptación de la agresión y las respuestas al comportamiento agresivo se evaluaron con cuatro viñetas presentadas con figuras de juguete. Los niños fueron animados a utilizar las figurillas para verbalizar o representar las respuestas. Las respuestas de los niños se catalogaron como respuestas para resolver problemas o respuestas agresivas. No hubo diferencias significativas entre los grupos en cuanto a las creencias acerca de la aceptabilidad de la agresión. Sin embargo, los niños más pequeños mostraron más aceptación acerca de la agresión. La técnica metodológica también sugirió que los niños que muestran relaciones agresivas utilizan más estrategias para la resolución de conflictos en comparación con los niños en el grupo de comparación. Estos resultados tienen importantes implicancias para los educadores ya que sugieren que no todas las formas de agresión se asocian con menos habilidades prosociales para resolver problemas. Las técnicas metodológicas empleadas en este estudio se podrían utilizar en programas de intervención para reducir conductas agresivas en niños de edad preescolar

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Correspondence to Cara S. Swit.

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Swit, C.S., McMaugh, A. & Warburton, W.A. Preschool Children’s Beliefs About the Acceptability of Relational and Physical Aggression. IJEC 48, 111–127 (2016). https://doi.org/10.1007/s13158-016-0155-3

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Keywords

  • Relational aggression
  • Physical aggression
  • Social information processing
  • Preschool
  • Social cognition
  • Early childhood