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Peer rejection rates and perceived social competence among elementary-school children who display reactive and combined reactive and proactive aggressive behaviors

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Peer rejection rates and perceived social competence among elementary-school children who display reactive and combined reactive and proactive aggressive behaviors
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Matloff, Gary Richard
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Child development ( jstor )
Child psychology ( jstor )
Childhood ( jstor )
Classrooms ( jstor )
Conduct disorder ( jstor )
Creeks ( jstor )
Human aggression ( jstor )
Peer relations ( jstor )
Social behavior ( jstor )
Social skills ( jstor )
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Thesis (Ph. D.)--University of Florida, 2001.
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Includes bibliographical references (leaves 121-137).
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Printout.
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Vita.
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by Gary Richard Matloff.

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PEER REJECTION RATES AND PERCEIVED SOCIAL COMPETENCE
AMONG ELEMENTARY-SCHOOL CHILDREN WHO DISPLAY REACTIVE AND
COMBINED REACTIVE AND PROACTIVE AGGRESSIVE BEHAVIORS








By

GARY RICHARD MATLOFF
























A DISSERTATION PRESENTED TO THE GRADUATE SCHOOL
OF THE UNIVERISITY OF FLORIDA IN PARTIAL FULFILLMENT
OF THE REQUIREMENTS FOR THE DEGREE OF DOCTOR OF PHILOSOPHY UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA 2001














ACKNOWLEDGMENTS

I would like to thank my doctoral committee for their support and assistance throughout the completion of this dissertation. I especially thank my committee chair, Dr. Thomas Oakland, for his guidance throughout my doctoral studies. His seemingly effortless competence in his work has been an inspiration. Drs. Tina Smith, Stephen Smith, and Patricia Ashton also were helpful and each made unique contributions in the preparation of my dissertation and development as a doctoral-level professional.

Very special thanks are bestowed to the public school board's administration and teachers for their support and participation in the study. This study's research could not have been possible without them. In addition, the tireless work ethic, intelligence, and humanity of Mrs. Denise Adams will continue to be a constant source of inspiration to me.

Miguel Padilla and Brad Moulder also deserve my

appreciation for their assistance with my data analysis.

Most of all I would like to express my gratitude to my parents, family, and friends for their unrelenting support throughout my graduate studies.



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Lastly, special thoughts are bestowed on Jared, Greg, and the other children with aggressive behavioral problems, with whom I have had the privilege to work. The hopefulness many of these children contain, in spite of the magnitude of their emotional problems, has been the consistent source of inspiration in my work toward negating risk factors and fostering their greater social and adaptive functioning.








































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TABLE OF CONTENTS

Page

ACKNOWLEDGMENTS ....................................... ii

LIST OF TABLES ....................................... vi

ABSTRACT ..............................................viii

CHAPTERS

ONE INTRODUCTION ................................. 1

Statement of the Problem ..................... 3
Purpose of the Study ......................... 6
Procedures ............ .................... 7
Hypothesis I ................................ 9
Hypothesis II ............................... 10
Hypothesis III .............................. 11
Hypothesis IV ................................. 11
Hypothesis V ................................ 12
Hypothesis VI ............................... 13
Limitations of the Study .................... 14
Definition of Key Terms ..................... 17

TWO REVIEW OF RELATED LITERATURE ................ 19

Disruptive Behavioral Disorders in Children
Who Are Aggressive ........................ 20
The Socialization of Aggression ............. 24
Distinguishing Reactive from Proactive
Aggression ................................ 32
Theoretical Perspectives Pertaining to
Reactive and Proactive Aggression ......... 35
Developmental Trends ........................ 45
Aggression and Social Competence ............ 52








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THREE METHODOLOGY .................................. 66

Participants ................................. 66
Instrumentation .............................. 69
Procedures ................................... 90
Data Analysis Procedures .................... 92

FOUR RESULTS ..................................... 95

Aggression Type and Peer Rejection Rates .... 95
Aggression Type and Perceived Social
Competence ............................. 98
Relationships Between Peer Rejection Rates
and Teacher Judgments of Social
Competence ............................... 101

FIVE DISCUSSION .................................. 103

Discussion of the Results ................... 105
Limitations ................................. 111
Implications and Concluding Remarks ......... 117

REFERENCES ............................................. 121

BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH ................................... 138




























V














LIST OF TABLES

Table Page

1 Subtypes of Aggressive Behavior in Humans
Related to Distinguishing Reactive and
Proactive Aggression ............... ....... 36

2 Reformulated Social Information-Processing
Model of Children's Social Adjustment ..... 41

3 Distribution of Participating Teachers across
the District's Elementary Schools by Grade
Group ..................................... 67

4 Distribution of the Reactive Aggression
Student Sample across the District's
Elementary Schools by Grade Group and
Gender .................................. 68

5 Distribution of the Reactive and Proactive
Aggression Student Sample across the
District's Elementary Schools by Grade
Group and Gender .......................... 68

6 Means and Standard Deviations for the Initial
Reactive and Proactive Aggression Questions
By Total and Grade Group .................. 75

7 Means and Standard Deviations of Aggression
Scores for the Reactive and Combined
Reactive and Proactive Aggression Groups by
Grade Group ............................... 75

8 Summary ANOVA Table for Peer Rejection ...... 97

9 Peer Rejection Rates as a Function of
Aggression Type and Grade Level ........... 98

10 Summary ANOVA Table for Teachers' Perceptions
Of Social Competence ...................... 100



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11 Teachers' Perceptions of Social Competence
as a Function of Aggression Type and Grade
Level ...................................... 100

12 Correlations Between Peer Rejection Rates and
Teachers' Perceptions of Social
,Competence ................................ 102















































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Abstract Dissertation Presented to the Graduate School
of the University of Florida in Partial Fulfillment of the Requirements for the Degree of Doctor of Philosophy PEER REJECTION RATES AND PERCEIVED SOCIAL COMPETENCE
AMONG ELEMENTARY-SCHOOL CHILDREN WHO DISPLAY REACTIVE AND COMBINED REACTIVE AND PROACTIVE AGGRESSIVE BEHAVIORS By

Gary Richard Matloff

August 2001

Chairman: Thomas D. Oakland, Ph.D. Major Department: Educational Psychology

This study investigated relationships among aggression type (i.e., predominantly reactive versus combined reactive and proactive types of aggression), teacher perceived social competence, and peer rejection rates among elementary-school children (i.e., grades K-5). Its goal was to utilize two sources of information (i.e., teachers and peers) to gain a more comprehensive understanding of relationships between children's display of aggressive behavior and social perceptions of teachers and peers.

Teachers initially provided ratings of reactive and proactive aggression of 796 elementary school students in grades kindergarten through 5. From these data, 191 elementary school students were identified as displaying vm








predominantly reactive or both reactive and proactive types of aggression. However, students who demonstrated solely proactive types of aggression were not included because of concerns that the criterion for inclusion in the proactive aggression group was too low. Teachers also rated children's social competence. Peer nomination data from the students in the classroom provided information on the children's social status.

Results indicated that peer rejection rates were comparable across three elementary-school grade groups (i.e., K-1, 2-3, and 4-5) regardless of whether children demonstrated predominantly reactive or combined reactive and proactive aggressive behaviors. Results also indicated that teachers' perceptions of social competence of aggressive children did not differ between aggressive children who displayed only reactive behaviors and those who displayed both reactive and proactive behaviors. However, among children who demonstrated both reactive and proactive behaviors, social competence for those in grades K-I was rated higher than for those in grades 2-3. Lastly, relationships between peer rejection rates and teacher judgments of social competence were nonsignificant for both groups of aggressive children.




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CHAPTER ONE
INTRODUCTION

Jared's school behavior problems have increased steadily over the years. On-going behavior management techniques have been used in an attempt to curtail his physical aggression toward peers in response to his feeling constantly provoked by them. He is defensive and mistrustful of others' intentions and is angered easily, even by seemingly innocuous situations. However, anyone who comes into prolonged contact with Jared is touched by his genuine inner goodness. He is described frequently as compassionate, affectionate, generous, and kind-hearted.

Greg has had on-going severe problems with aggression in school for several years, including vandalism, stealing, and bullying. His teacher describes him as having angry, impulsive, and defiant attitudes toward authority figures and is combative toward peers. Through modeling and positive reinforcement Greg has learned over the years that behaving aggressively results in obtaining such goals as acquiring objects and dominating peers. However, in spite of his aggressive demeanor, a social and emotional assessment revealed that Greg desires positive peer



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relations and is capable of regret and remorse for his wrongdoings.

Both boys are third-grade students who have an

extensive history of aggressive behavioral problems. Their lack of social skills prevents them from inhibiting aggressive behavior in favor of prosocial behavior. Their parents, extended family members, teachers, counselors, and peers all fear the serious consequences that can result from their aggressive behavior (e.g., physical harm, emotional trauma, property destruction). They also share concerns that the boys' future will be bleak if they continue to behave aggressively as they grow older.

However, the similarities end there. Each boy's

behavioral problems are attributed to a different type of aggression: the first has solely reactive and the second has both reactive and proactive types of aggression. Reactive aggression is defined by skill deficiencies (e.g., lack of self-control) that prompt aggressive behavior when feeling provoked. Proactive aggression is defined as relying on aggressive behavior to achieve maladaptive goals. An objective of this research is to increase our understanding of relationships between the social skills









and social status of children who display these different forms of aggression.

Statement of the Problem

This study examines relationships between teachers' perceptions of two types of children's aggressive behaviors, teacher judgments of social competence, and peer judgments of social status among elementary school pupils. Theory and data suggest that social factors influencing children's behaviors, including their aggressive behaviors, may forecast more chronic maladaptive behavioral disorders, such as antisocial personality disorders (Kauffman, 1999; Shinn, Ramsey, Walker, Steiber, & O'Neill, 1987). Knowledge of relationships between teachers' perceptions of different types of aggressive behavior in children and their social competence and social status may enhance our understanding of elementary-school children who are at-risk for future misbehavior and violence (Bierman, Smoot, & Aumiller, 1993).

Previous studies support the validity of

distinguishing between reactive and proactive aggression (Dodge & Coie, 1987; Smithmyer, Hubbard, & Simons, 2000). These two forms of aggression represent different social response styles. Reactive aggression is an overt act of









anger that is displayed in response to provocation and biases toward attributing hostile intent to others (Dodge & Coie, 1987; Dodge et al., 1990). In contrast, proactive aggression is an instrumental, covert act of anger that is intentional and purposeful regarding outcome expectancies (Dodge & Coie, 1987).

Social information-processing theory may help explain how different mental processes influence reactive and proactive aggressive behavior (Crick & Dodge, 1996; Dodge & Schwartz, 1997). In general, how a child interprets a provocative social cue subsequently influences whether the child will respond with aggressive behavior (Dodge & Schwartz, 1997). Perceiving hostile intent on the part of another child will often evoke reactive aggression in the child prone to aggression. In contrast, evaluating (i.e., during the later stages of information-processing) an expected outcome to a particular social situation often evokes proactive behaviors in a child prone to respond aggressively. Studies are lacking that have investigated the social status of children who behave aggressively across the elementary school years. Furthermore, research on children's social development is lacking in comparing relationships between the display of different types of





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aggressive behavior and standardized measures of social competence.

Studies have linked elementary-school children's age and their respective evaluations of others' reactive and proactive aggressive behaviors (Crick & Dodge, 1994; Crick & Dodge, 1996; Dodge & Coie, 1987). Older children evaluate aggression more negatively than do younger children (Crick & Dodge, 1996; Dodge & Coie, 1987). Children's evaluations of aggressive behavior are related to developmental differences in their processing of information (Crick & Dodge, 1994). For example, peers may become increasingly hostile toward children who tend to respond with reactive aggression because they expect that these children will behave aggressively in social situations (Crick & Dodge, 1996). Children who respond with proactive aggression are motivated by instrumental goals (e.g., lying, cheating, stealing, bullying) and are more subject to risk of peer rejection as they become older and the importance of relational goals increases (Price & Dodge, 1989).

Although previous studies (Crick & Dodge, 1996; Price & Dodge, 1989) focused on restricted age ranges (i.e., ages 9-12 and 5-6), the current study examined relationships between children's aggression type and teachers'





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perceptions of their social competence and peer ratings of their social status across a broader age range (i.e., K-5 grades). Previous studies also have relied on a single source of measurement (i.e., from teachers or from peers) to identify social behaviors of children who behave aggressively (Coie & Dodge, 1988). However, the current study used both teachers and peers to judge social behaviors of elementary school children with different types of aggressive behavior within the social context of the classroom. Relationships between reactive and proactive aggression and social factors may be understood better by having information from teachers and peers than from one of these sources (Bierman et al., 1993). The availability of these two sources of information allows us to gain a broader understanding of the relationships between different types of aggressive behavior in children and teachers' perceptions of their social competence and peers' ratings of their social status.

Purpose of the Study

This study examined two perceived social

characteristics of elementary school children who behave aggressively. The social status (i.e., peer rejection rates) of children who displayed reactive aggressive









behavior problems and those who displayed both reactive and proactive aggressive behavior problems were expected to be related to their negative behaviors. The aggressive behaviors of these children also were expected to be related to teachers' perceptions of their social skills (i.e., specific strategies that they used to carry out or respond to social tasks that make up social competence). As children who behave aggressively become older, peer rejection rates stabilize and the likelihood of their behaving prosocially decreases (Pettit, Bakshi, Dodge, & Coie, 1990). They also increasingly drift toward associating with other deviant peers (Geen, 1998a). This study attempted to clarify relationships between aggressive behavior types and teachers' perceptions of social competence and peer rejection rates for children who are at-risk of developing serious antisocial behavioral patterns.

Procedures

Dodge and Coie (1987) devised a teacher-rating

instrument to distinguish reactive and proactive aggressive behavior subtypes in children. Forty-seven teachers (in 47 regular education classes) in grades Kindergarten through 5 in this study completed the rating scale. Their information





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was used to distinguish children who engaged in reactive aggression from those who engaged in both reactive and proactive aggression.

The Walker-McConnell Scale of Social Competence and

School Adjustment (1995), also a teacher-rating instrument, was used to measure children's social skills. The focus of the social-behavioral competencies measured were teacherand peer-related forms of social competence and general school adjustment. Teachers rated the social competence of their students.

Peer nominations provide reliable and valid

assessments of childhood aggression by those in a key position to make such observations (Huesmann, Eron, Guerra, & Crawshaw, 1994; Johnston, Pelham, Crawford, & Atkins, 1988). Social status classification data were used to assess peer acceptance or rejection of children who behave aggressively. Elementary-school children were asked to nominate three peers with whom they preferred to play (peer acceptance) and three with whom they did not (peer rejection). Social status assessments of all the children displaying aggression in the classrooms were available for analysis. Peer nomination data were subsequently evaluated





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to determine the extent to which peers rejected children identified as aggressive.

Hypothesis 1

Among elementary school children in grades K-5,

children who are reactively aggressive were expected to have higher peer rejection rates than children whose behavior is composed of both reactive and proactive types.

Children who are reactively aggressive believe that others' negative actions are a result of hostile intent (Crick & Dodge, 1996). Because of this expectation, children who display only reactive aggressive behaviors are expected to be less able to control their own impulsive reactions (e.g., physical aggression) than children who display proactive aggressive behaviors. Such overt forms of aggressive behavior are evident more immediately and are expected to induce peer rejection more readily. Children whose aggressiveness comprises both reactive and proactive types are expected to demonstrate more functional social skills because of their greater ability to behave in a goal-oriented fashion rather than solely as a reactor (Dodge & Coie, 1987).





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Hypothesis 2

Peer rejection rates of children who are reactively aggressive were not expected to differ across the three grade groups (i.e., K-1, 2-3, and 4-5).

Reactive aggressive problems typically are evident in children prior to their beginning elementary school (Farver, 1996). Children with reactive aggressive behaviors are generally deficient in detecting others' intentions (Dodge & Somberg, 1987). They also tend to exhibit behaviors that are regarded negatively by peers, including impulsivity, low frustration tolerance, and strong negative affective responses. The combination of cognitive and social deficits may lead to a greater incidence of peer rejection for children with reactive aggressive behavior problems (Lochman & Dodge, 1994). Negative perceptions of peers toward those who display reactive aggression tend to remain stable across grade levels (Coie, Terry, Lenox, Lochman, & Hyman, 1995). Awareness that children with reactive aggressive behaviors across the elementary school years are at a high risk of rejection by their peers may further explain differences in social competence as a function of their style of aggressive behavior (i.e., children who display both reactive and proactive aggressive





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behaviors in contrast to children who display only reactive aggressive behaviors).

Hypothesis 3

Peer rejection rates of children who are both

reactively and proactively aggressive were not expected to differ across the three grade groups (i.e., K-1, 2-3, and 4-5).

Peer-rejected children who exhibit reactive aggressive behavior difficulties have problems resulting from their social deficits (e.g., in encoding and interpretation of cues) and lack of self-control (Dodge & Schwartz, 1997). However, because they are more able to inhibit impulsive aggression, peer rejection may not be as prevalent among elementary-school students displaying both reactive and proactive aggressive behavior. The relationship between age across the elementary school years of children who tend to display a combination of reactive and proactive behavior and their social status has not been investigated.

Hypothesis 4

Children who are both reactively and proactively

aggressive were expected to be perceived by their teacher as having higher social competence than children who are predominantly reactively aggressive.





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Teachers may tend to regard children in the

elementary-school grades who display both reactive and proactive aggression less negatively than children who only display reactive aggression. Students with reactive aggressive behavior problems have difficulty meeting their teacher's social demands in the classroom (e.g., conformity to classroom rules, academic focus and effort, positive peer relations), because of their tendency to react impulsively. Consequently, teachers may judge children who are reactively aggressive as lacking in socially competent behavior (Walker & McConnell, 1995). Children who display socially competent behavior demonstrate the ability to inhibit expressions of aggressive behavior (Geen, 1998b). Therefore, teachers may perceive children who restrain from displaying aggressive behavior as more socially competent to meet classroom demands. Children who display reactive and proactive aggressive behavior may be more likely to inhibit impulsive aggression and consequently appear to be more socially competent by their teacher.

Hypothesis 5

The social competence for elementary school children who are both reactively and proactively aggressive was





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expected to be perceived as being lower in grades 4-5 than in grades K-I and 2-3 by their teachers.

As children mature they learn to differentiate more clearly when aggression is justified (Pettit, Bakshi, Dodge, & Coie, 1994). Older peer groups regard proactive aggression more negatively because they can more easily identify behaviors lacking in prosocial value (e.g., bullying is more likely to be perceived as a negative aspect of one's assertiveness) (Bierman, Smoot, & Aumiller, 1993). Peers and teachers alike are likely to appraise social deficits more negatively in later than in earlier elementary school grades (Crick & Dodge, 1996).

Hypothesis 6

The relationships between peer rejection and teacher judgments of social competence were expected to be nonsignificant among children who display both reactive and proactive aggression and significant among children who display predominantly reactive aggression for each of the three grade groups (i.e., K-1, 2-3, and 4-5).

Teachers generally are reliable reporters of student behavior (Dodge & Coie, 1987). Teachers typically are in a position to note deviant behavior because they have day-today interactions with their students and both a normative





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basis for evaluating behavior and knowledge of contextual conditions that may influence behaviors. Children also have clear ideas about students who should be avoided because of their continual displays of deviant behavior (e.g., reactive aggression). However, the behavior of children who display both reactive and proactive aggression may appear to be less deviant to younger peers than to students in the later elementary school grades. Thus, early elementaryschool children may reject children who display both reactive and proactive aggressive types less frequently than older children may. Children who display reactive and proactive aggression also may display socially competent behavior that diminishes the rejection typically experienced by children who are only reactively aggressive. Children who display reactive and proactive aggression may appear to be more socially adept to their peers during the early elementary years.

Limitations of the Study

This study examined possible relationships among

teachers' perceptions of the social competence and peer rejection rates of children who displayed different types of aggressive behavior. Experimental conditions (e.g., attempts to improve the development of appropriate social





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skills and negate the expression of aggressive behavior) were not studied. Therefore, no causal conclusions are possible from this study. The study is limited to statements of relationships among variables.

Limited resources associated with this study required the use of a cross-sectional rather than a longitudinal design. The ability to detect changes as they occur in participants throughout the developmental span (e.g., elementary school) would be preferred. However, the relationships among teachers' perceptions of social competence, peer rejection, and the reactive and combined reactive and proactive groups were expected to vary across the three different grade groups (i.e., grades K-1, grades 2-3, and grades 4-5).

The study also was limited to examining an elementary school population. Data on adolescent students at the middle and high school levels were not collected. Thus, information from kindergarten through grade 12 will not be provided in this study.

Measures of students' type and level of aggression as well as social competence are based on teacher perceptions. Therefore, the question of teacher bias needs to be addressed. Research suggests that teachers are able to





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distinguish different behaviors among their students reliably (Kamphaus, 1995). For example, teacher ratings of proactive and reactive aggression were significantly related to indices of proactive and reactive aggression based on direct observation in free-play interactions (Day, Bream, & Pal, 1992). However, the possibility of teacher bias in the data obtained in this study cannot be dismissed. For example, data were collected during the last

2 months of the school year. Teachers, who have struggled with the management of constant behavioral problems throughout the school year, may have been inclined to judge certain students with behavioral problems more harshly regardless of whether there was evidence of an increase in their behavioral problems. Furthermore, teachers' ratings of students' aggression may have influenced their ratings of the students' social competence.

Finally, this study is primarily concerned with overt forms of reactive and proactive aggression because of the focus of the Reactive and Proactive Aggression TeacherRating Scale (Dodge & Coie, 1987). Brown, Atkins, Osborne, & Milnamow (1996) criticized Dodge and Coie's measure of proactive aggression because the items assessing proactive aggression only reflect overt-hostile aggression, whereas





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proactive aggression is theoretically related to both covert-instrumental and overt-hostile aggression. However, Brown et al. (1996) found that instrumental-proactive and hostile-proactive aggression items loaded on one factor, thus negating the apparent weaknesses in the instrument's measurement of proactive aggression. However, the authors still are in the beginning stages of their research in the use of a different type of scale that distinguishes among two different types of proactive aggression. For the purposes of the current study and discussed further in the methods section, a predominantly proactive aggressive group of students was not studied because of concerns that the criterion for inclusion into the group was too low.

Definition of Key Terms

Reactive aggression refers to an aggressor's retaliation in response to feeling provoked and subsequently threatened by perceptions of another's hostile intent.

Proactive aggression is the purposeful, premeditated, and goal-oriented behavior that results from the aggressor's anticipation of benefits from his or her behavior.





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Social competence refers to the demonstration of social behaviors that are judged appropriate for the situation.

Social skills are the specific strategies (i.e.,

cooperation, assertion, responsibility, empathy, and selfcontrol) that are used to carry out or respond to social tasks.

Prosocial behavior refers to social behavior that is helpful in promoting positive peer interactions and relationships.

Peer-preferred social behavior is peer-related social behavior that is highly valued by peers.

Teacher-preferred social behavior is peer-related social behavior that is highly valued by teachers.

Social relational goals are objectives related to the achievement of positive peer relationships through the practice of prosocial behaviors.












CHAPTER TWO
REVIEW OF RELATED LITERATURE

Peer rejection and social isolation are frequent consequences of a child's aggressive behavior. Recent extreme acts of school violence and the public's desire to know the psychological profiles of nonaggressive and aggressive students point to a need to identify cognitive and social factors contributing to aggression. Research on children's social competence typically has focused on varying levels of peer acceptance among children who are aggressive and nonaggressive and the cognitive processes the children use when responding to social situations (Erdley, 1996). The following literature review will discuss the roles of cognitive processes and social influences on children's aggressive behavior.

The following intends to (a) link relevant behavioral disorders with children who display pervasive aggression,

(b) review critically the relationship between reactive and proactive types of childhood aggression and peer rejection,

(c) distinguish between reactive and proactive forms of aggressive behavior, (d) present relevant theory, most notably social information-processing theory, that promotes



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an understanding of social influences on reactive and proactive aggression, (e) highlight developmental perspectives associated with the escalation and maintenance of childhood aggression, and (f) explain social competence as it relates to the study of aggression.

Disruptive Behavioral Disorders in Children Who Are Aggressive

Aggressive behavior consistently is identified as a prominent component of, or comorbid with, childhood disruptive behavior disorders, including conduct disorder

(CD) and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). Although almost all children exhibit some form of aggression, indicators of psychopathology focus on behaviors that become exceptionally severe, constant, and chronic (Lochman, White, & Wayland, 1991), and occur at inappropriate times (Patterson, 1975). Aggressive, socially maladaptive behavior patterns in young children frequently are cited as risk factors for more pervasive problems in later childhood, adolescence, and adulthood (Coie, Dodge, & Kupersmidt, 1990; Fraser, 1996; Hughes, Cavell, & Grossman, 1997).

Aggression and Conduct Disorder

Conduct disorder is one of the most prevalent and intractable mental health problems of childhood and





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adolescence. It commonly begins in early to middle childhood in the milder form of oppositional defiant disorder (Bierman et al., 1992). Conduct disorder, in turn, often precedes a diagnosis of Antisocial Personality disorder in young adults (Hughes, Cavell, & Grossman, 1997). The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 4th Edition (DSM IV) (American Psychiatric Association, 1994) defines conduct disorder as "repetitive and persistent engagement in maladaptive behavioral patterns, in which the basic rights of others or major ageappropriate societal norms or rules are violated."

Behavioral problems associated with conduct disorders may include aggressive behavior toward others (e.g., bullies, threatens, or intimidates others), property destruction (e.g., fire setting), deceitfulness (e.g., lying) or theft, and serious violations of rules (e.g., running away from home at least twice). According to the DSM-IV, the type of conduct disorder depends on the age of onset: 1) childhood-onset type is determined if onset of behavior occurs prior to 10 years of age and 2) adolescentonset type is determined if there is an absence of behavior prior to 10 years of age.





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Children diagnosed with a conduct disorder typically display aggressive behavior. However, a diagnosis of conduct disorder often is made without considering the heterogeneity of a child's aggressive behaviors that influence maladaptive behavioral patterns (Dodge, 1990). There is an increasing trend to address the severity of aggressive behavior in young children and their development of chronic behavioral disorders. For example, developmental differences in the characteristic nature of the presenting conduct problems are demonstrated by early (i.e., childhood-onset type) and late (i.e., adolescent-onset type) onset patterns for a conduct disorder (American Psychiatric Association, 1994). Distinguishing early from late onset of conduct disorders can be useful in determining the level of severity of aggression (Loeber & Stouthamer-Loeber, 1998).

Aggression and Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder

Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is another behavioral disorder commonly associated with children who exhibit problems with aggression. ADHD is the most common behavioral disorder in children (Johnson, 1997). ADHD typically is diagnosed using criteria established in the DSM-IV (American Psychiatric





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Association, 1994). The disorder is observed first during preschool and elementary grades (Loeber, Green, Lahey, Christ, & Frick, 1992). The incidence of behavioral problems associated with ADHD increases in first grade and remains fairly stable thereafter (Pellegrini & Horvat, 1995).

Behavioral problems associated with ADHD include

persistent difficulties with attention (e.g., difficulty concentrating, organizing, day dreaming, inadequate schoolwork), hyperactivity (e.g., fidgety, noisy, easily over-excited), and impulsivity (e.g., acting without particular regard for consequences to one's behavior). According to the DSM-IV, the symptom pattern of ADHD must have appeared before 7 years of age, and the impairment must be observed in at least two settings (e.g., school and home). The DSM-IV outlines three ADHD subtypes: predominantly inattention type, predominantly hyperactiveimpulsive type, and a combined type. The latter two subtypes are most common in children with aggressive behaviors.

Among children who are aggressive, a high rate of peer rejection exists for those displaying ADHD-related behaviors (Milich & Landau, 1982; Pelham & Bender, 1982).





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For example, children with aggressive and ADHD behaviors typically exhibit difficulties following instructions and following rules (e.g., when playing team sports). ADHDrelated behaviors that cause peer rejection can develop into more serious conduct disorder pathology as the child becomes older (Hinshaw, Lahey, & Hart, 1993). An overlapping subgroup of children with both conduct disorders and ADHD displays a more destructive form of psychopathology than do children with either singlediagnosis category (Hinshaw & Anderson, 1996). Their physical aggression is more intense and their antisocial behavior more persistent. Overt forms of aggression associated with children with ADHD are related to research linking acting-out behavior to peer rejection (Erhardt & Hinshaw, 1994).

The Socialization of Aggression

Aggression occurs as a result of a combined biological and psychological response to an aversive situation involving conflict with other people (Geen, 1998b). The existence of both overt (e.g., physical attacks) and covert (e.g., stealing, property destruction) forms of aggressive behavior is noted in such diagnostic categories as oppositional defiant disorder, conduct disorder, and





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antisocial personality disorder (Hinshaw et al., 1997). Aggression is only one symptomatic pattern of a disruptive behavior disorder that typically also includes deficits in other core capacities (e.g., social interaction, cognitive functioning, self-control, and emotion regulation) (Bierman et al., 1996). The present study concentrates on social influences (e.g., an individual's social competence and social status) of aggression that are thought to be related to children's expression of aggressive behavior. Aggression in the Schools

By the fifth grade, key school behaviors (e.g., fighting, bullying, stealing, vandalism) are found in conduct disordered children who may be at-risk for adopting an antisocial lifestyle (Shinn, Ramsey, Walker, Steiber, & O'Neill, 1987). In addition, disruptive behaviors of children with conduct disorders consistently undermine educational efforts of teachers and pose threats to other children's physical safety. The school system also is affected negatively by high costs for specialized educational services and/or placements (Bierman et al., 1992). Children and adolescents with externalizing (e.g., aggressive) behavioral problems comprise the majority of





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students who receive specialized educational services for disruptive youth (Cartledge & Talbert-Johnson, 1996).

A specific risk factor for later aggression and

deviancy exists when behavioral difficulties occur in more than one setting, thereby suggesting the perseverance of an enduring trait (Dubow & Reid, 1994). Children who exhibit aggressive behavior in their home and community typically generalize these behaviors to the school. Given their complicated emotional and behavioral problems, integrating children with conduct-disorders into a regular education environment presents one of the greatest challenges for inclusive classrooms (Cartledge & Talbert-Johnson, 1996).

Considering the social demands of school settings (e.g., expectations for academic success, conformity to social rules, and positive peer relations), any comprehensive theory of conduct disorder must consider multiple factors, including the potential for distinct subtypes of conduct disorder (e.g., skills-deficient versus community value-based conduct disorder) (Dodge, 1993). The most effective treatment is likely to be determined by those qualities that need the greatest attention (e.g., social skills training for interpersonal deficits). Treatment can be facilitated by more refined diagnostic





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practices based on an increased understanding of the different types of aggressive behavior. Aggression and Maladaptive Social Outcomes

Individuals differ widely in their display of

aggressive behavior. Social influences are important in understanding different behavioral tendencies (Dodge, 1991). Two types of aggression are distinguished by the different social goals (Baron & Richardson, 1994): a) affective (i.e., angry) aggression, in which the main motive of the aggressor is to harm the victim, and b) instrumental (i.e., predatory) aggression, which includes other motives (e.g., personal gratification) besides inflicting harm itself (Geen, 1998a). Regardless of the type, aggressive behavior is highly visible and encourages the formation of an unfavorable social image for children who behave aggressively (Coie & Koeppl, 1990). Subsequent peer rejection of aggressive behavior places these children at risk for socially maladaptive outcomes, including dropping out of school, engaging in delinquent activities, and suffering from mental health problems (Kupersmidt, Coie, & Dodge, 1990).

Relationships between children's aggressive behavior and subsequent difficulties with peer relations have been





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demonstrated empirically. For example, peer rejection increases the probability of more entrenched deviant (e.g., antisocial) behavioral patterns in later childhood, adolescence, and adulthood (Coie & Kupersmidt, 1983; Dodge, Coie, Pettit, & Price, 1990). Research has shown that aggression in conduct-disordered behavior patterns may develop over time, as well as result in the decrease in social competence.

As they become older, children's social circles widen from interactions exclusively within the family to include those with teachers and peers. Constant exposure to a peer culture is an important developmental step toward establishing social networks and peer group status (French & Underwood, 1996). In addition to individual characteristics (e.g., aggression, inadequate self-control, impulsivity) and parental behaviors (e.g., inconsistent and/or harsh disciplinary practices, insufficient supervision), the child's broader social context becomes a crucial determinant for the possible emergence, manifestation, maintenance, and generalization of a conduct disorder (Coie & Jacobs, 1993).

Aggressive behaviors have adverse social consequences for children in school. Simply, children who behave





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aggressively typically become disliked and actively rejected by their peers (Erdley, 1996). Older children who are aggressive and have adopted antisocial maladaptive behavior patterns are ultimately left with few social settings that provide any form of reinforcement (Coie & Jacobs, 1993). Later conduct disorders do not emerge solely from an intrapersonal process within a child (Bierman et al., 1996). Rather, negative interpersonal processes influence the development of serious behavioral disorders and emerge partly as a result of engaging in aggressive and maladaptive behavior patterns. Further, peers who exhibit deviant behavior begin to drift together and encourage each other's existing antisocial tendencies through modeling and shaping new forms of problematic behavior (Coie & Jacobs, 1993).

Conduct disordered behavior can be reduced and improvements in adaptive outcomes can be attained by addressing multiple socialization contexts (e.g., home and school) and skill domains (e.g., social and cognitive) (Bierman et al., 1996). The effectiveness of intervention also is broadened by attending to interaction patterns among all members of the child's social fields (e.g., family, school, and peer group) (Bierman et al., 1992).





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Without intervention, children with conduct disorders are likely to become trapped in a vicious cycle of negative interactions with peers in their social circle (Coie & Jacobs, 1993).

Social Competence Promotes Adaptive Behavior

Children who are aggressive typically are

characterized in school as being deficient in appropriate social skills. These children are rejected by their peers not only because of their aggressive acts themselves, but also because they lack knowledge of appropriate social goals, ability to translate cognitive representations of social goals into skillful behavior, and ability to monitor and interpret the effects of their behavior within the social environment (Ladd & Mize, 1983). Social competence in children is closely related to their learning how to inhibit expressions of aggression (Geen, 1998b).

Recent research characterizes social competence as a set of social behaviors that are defined as individual, discrete, observable acts that make up a social skill (Rutherford, Chipman, DiGangi, & Anderson, 1992). In defining social competence, Walker and McConnell (1995) subscribe to a functional or performance-based view of social skills. Children are characterized as using specific





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strategies to carry out or respond to social tasks. Within this framework, others (e.g., teachers) judge social competence in children on the adequacy of their performance on a given social task. Social competence in the form of prosocial behavior (e.g., ability and willingness to help, share, and cooperate with others) is critical to children's school adjustment (Wentzel, 1996).

Three important goals are achieved by displaying

appropriate social skills: a) initiating and developing positive social relationships with others, b) facilitating the ability to cope effectively with the behavioral demands and expectations within specific settings, and c) providing for the appropriate communication and assertion of one's needs, desires, and preferences (Walker, Schwartz, Nippold, Irvin, & Noell, 1994). When successfully negotiated, the behavioral demands within teacher controlled instructional settings and social demands within peer controlled freeplay settings result in positive socialization experiences for children in school (Walker et al., 1994).

Relationships with peers provide interpersonal

experiences for children that can promote the development of socially competent behavior and may not be available through their relationships with parents (Wentzel, 1996).





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As children become older, the peer network becomes increasingly influential in defining their identity and sense of belonging. However, children tend to select peers who do not demand the use of behaviors nonexistent or weak in their behavioral repertoire (Dishion, Patterson, Stoolmiller, & Skinner, 1991). The central idea is that children seek social settings that provide the maximum level of social reinforcement for the minimum social energy (Dishion et al., 1991). For example, peer-rejected children who are seen as being socially incompetent by others search for peers more tolerant of and likely to encourage their maladaptive behavioral patterns. Children who are aggressive lack socially competent behavioral skills and develop relationships with other deviant peers to gain the social acceptance that others have failed to provide.

Distinguishing Reactive from Proactive Aggression

For purposes of this study, aggression may be defined as behavior aimed deliberately towards inflicting damage to people or property (Vitiello & Stoff, 1997). Previous research combined various forms of aggression into one global category, and all types of aggression were considered equally associated with social rejection (Price





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& Dodge, 1989). However, different subtypes of aggression are distinguishable.

Attempts to distinguish qualities in children

described as aggressive by their peers are important, in part, because aggression consistently is the most reported and notable feature in rejected children (Coie & Koeppl, 1990). In turn, some forms of aggressive behavior may be related to social rejection more strongly than others (Price & Dodge, 1989). Children whose aggressive behavior is affective and an overt act of anger (e.g., reactive aggression) may be viewed differently than children whose aggressive behavior is instrumental and a covert act of anger (e.g., proactive aggression). This study considers reactive aggression as distinct from aggression that includes both reactive and proactive types.

According to negative reinforcement principles, the purpose of reactive aggressive behavior is to eliminate a perceived threat when the subject is angered or aroused. Children who react aggressively often display such retaliation in response to feeling provoked and threatened by perceptions of another's hostile intent (Dodge & Coie, 1987). Reactive aggression typically is displayed through





34



hostile facial gestures, impulsive acts, and a strong, negative affective response (Boivin, Dodge, & Coie, 1995).

In contrast to reactive forms of aggression, the purpose of proactive forms of aggression (Dodge et al., 1990) is to dominate another and/or achieve an instrumental, goal-oriented outcome when not provoked. According to positive reinforcement principles, proactive aggression (e.g., coercion, bullying, stealing, and vandalism) is a more premeditated form of aggressive behavior that occurs as a result of anticipated benefits for the aggressor. The organized, premeditated initiation of aggressive behavior in proactive aggression distinguishes it from the hostile defensiveness in reactive aggression (Dodge & Coie, 1987).

Two types of behavioral aggression are found in

reactive and proactive aggression (Vitiello & Stoff, 1997):

(a) the affective (reactive) subtype involves an activation of the defensive (i.e., fight-or-flight) response with a high level of physiological arousal in reaction to a perceived threat while (b) the predatory (proactive) subtype involves a minimal level of physiological arousal and is offensive as a function of the aggressor's goal in securing an anticipated positive reward. Subtypes of human





35



aggression include impulsive forms that often are accompanied by affective instability (e.g., affective subtype or reactive aggression) and nonimpulsive forms that are goal-oriented and more directly related to antisocial behavioral tendencies (e.g., predatory subtype, proactive aggression). Vitiello and Stoff (1997) categorized six similar sets of aggression subtypes: hostile and instrumental, overt and covert, defensive and offensive, affective and predatory, impulsive and controlled, and reactive and proactive. Different mental processes underlying each of the distinct types (i.e., reactive and proactive aggression) characterize the multidimensional nature of aggression (Dodge & Schwartz, 1997).

Theoretical Perspectives Pertaining to
Reactive and Proactive Aggression

Various theories underlie reactive and proactive

subtypes of aggression. Frustration-aggression theory is relevant in understanding reactive aggression (e.g., the goal of aggression is to defend oneself or inflict harm on the source of frustration), and social-learning theory is relevant in understanding proactive aggression (e.g., the goal of aggression is to engage in instrumental behaviors that are controlled by external rewards) (Dodge, 1991). The two theories of aggression are superior to earlier





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Table 1

Subtypes of Aggressive Behavior in Humans Related to Distinguishing Reactive and Proactive Aggression


A. Hostile (aimed at causing damage to the victim) vs.
Instrumental (aimed at attaining other rewards)
Aggression;

B. Overt (open defiance through arguing, fighting, and
Tantrums) vs.
Covert (sneaky manipulation through stealing,
Truancy, and firesetting) aggression;

C. Defensive (self protection against a threat) vs.
Offensive (attacking, causing wrongdoing)
aggression;

D. Affective (uncontrolled, impulsive, and unplanned
behavior) vs.
Predatory (controlled, goal-oriented, planned, and
Hidden behavior) aggression;

E. Impulsive (related with children who display
Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder-ADHD) vs.
Controlled (related to those children without a
diagnosis of ADHD) aggression.




theories, such as those that emphasized innate, biological variables being solely responsible for aggressive behavior by acknowledging the instigative and incentive aspects of aggressive motivation.

Frustration-Aggression Theory

According to the frustration-aggression theory,

aggression is a hostile, angry reaction to frustration





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(Berkowitz, 1963; Dollard, Doob, Miller, Mowrer, & Sears, 1939). Dodge's (1980) hostile attribution theory is related to and enhances the frustration-aggression theory (Dodge & Coie, 1987). Social-cognitive deficits and biases result in a tendency to over-attribute hostile intentions in an ambiguous situation. Children who behave aggressively are impaired in their ability to cognitively integrate information about others' intentions at the time of the action (i.e., cue-utilization deficiency) into their behavior. This impairment renders their social performance most vulnerable under threatening conditions (Dodge & Somberg, 1987) and in ambiguous situations (Dodge, 1980). Interpretations of hostile intention in a target's behavior subsequently influence irrational thought processes (i.e., fear). Reactive aggression serves as a defense that is primarily motivated by fear (Pulkkinen, 1996).

Dodge and Crick's (1990) identification of the socialcognitive bases of aggression helps explain how cognitive processes influence the expression of reactive aggression. Skillful cognitive processing leads to competent social behavior, whereas deficient cognitive processing leads to maladaptive (e.g., aggressive) behavior set in motion by certain environmental cues (e.g., provocation, perceived or





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real) (Baron & Richardson, 1994). Social cognition processes involve cognitive scripts that are stored in memory and used as guides for future behavior and social problem solving (Eron, 1994).

Reactive forms of aggressive behavior are the result of inadequate social-cognitive skills. Social cognition processes are less coherent among aggressive boys who display reactive behavior, and cognitive, affective, and physiological processes are hypothesized to influence attributions of hostile intent (Dodge & Somberg, 1987). Attributions of hostile intentions of ambiguous social cues by children demonstrating reactive aggressive behavior has been demonstrated (Steinberg & Dodge, 1983) and suggests support for the hostile attribution theory. Social Learning Theory

According to Bandura's (1973) social learning theory

(Crick & Dodge, 1996), proactive aggression, in contrast to reactive aggression, is goal directed (Dodge & Coie, 1987) and controlled by external reinforcements (Dodge, 1991). The anticipated specific positive outcome resulting from aggression is central to proactive aggression and typically counters the socially unacceptable value of aggressive behavior (Dodge & Coie, 1987). Children who behave with





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proactive aggression learn to act in anticipation of such likely outcomes as tangible rewards (e.g., object acquisition as a result of stealing), peer group approval (e.g., bullying behavior mistaken for leadership qualities), and reduction of aversive consequences (e.g., getting out of a dreaded chore).

Children who display proactive aggressive behavior distort others' intentions (cue distortion) relative to their own expectation of negative intentions (Dodge, 1980). Although thought to be capable of accurately perceiving others' intentions, children demonstrating proactive aggressive behavior have a limited and biased response repertoire and evaluate the outcomes of behaving aggressively in positive ways (Dodge, 1991). Thus, the prognosis of these children to change and become less aggressive is low because generally they are reinforced by their aggressive behavior (Day et al., 1992). Social Information-Processing Theory

Social information-processing theory helps explain the function of both reactive and proactive aggression. Mental processes in social behavior include perception and problem-solving together with the emotional features associated with one's goals, motivational state, and





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arousal regulation (Dodge, 1993). For children who behave reactively aggressive, social information is cued by a provocative interpersonal exchange. Any bias (e.g., hostile) in a situation can affect the cognitive construction of the exchange and the response made to it (Geen, 1998b). Social information-processing theory helps explain relationships between a social cue (e.g., perceived or real provocation) and a child's aggressive behavioral response (Dodge & Schwartz, 1997). For children who behave proactively aggressive, social situations are represented internally and interpreted, and behavioral responses are generated as a direct reflection of their mental processing (Dodge & Schwartz, 1997). As a result of receiving reinforcement for their aggressive behavior, the continuity of information-processing remains and new information within the social environment is acknowledged. Crick and Dodge (1994) reformulated Dodge's (1986) initial proposal of social information-processing to include six processing steps. Each is characterized by a specific mental operation or set of operations: (a) encoding social cues into short-term memory, (b) interpreting social cues so that a meaningful abstraction of the encoded situation is generated, (c) classifying and selecting goals (e.g.,





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Table 2

Reformulated Social Information-Processing Model of Children's Social Adjustment


Step a: Encoding of both external and internal cues; Step b: Interpretation of cues:
Causal attributions Intent attributions
Other interpretive processes (goal attainment
evaluations, past performance evaluations, self-evaluations, and other-evaluations);
Step c: Clarification of goals (e.g., desired outcome) that are revised so that new goals are constructed in response to immediate social stimuli; Step d: Responses accessed from memory or construction of new behaviors in response to immediate social cues; Step e: Response decision:
Evaluating outcomes expected from using each
response (outcome expectations)
the degree of confidence there is in one's
ability to enact each response (selfefficacy)
evaluating the appropriateness of each
response (response evaluation); Step f: Enactment of the chosen behavior.




instrumental or interpersonal) for the encoded situation,

(d) accessing and constructing responses to formulated

goals that children search for previously learned social

behaviors (e.g., aggression) in their long-term memory

store, (e) evaluating the probable outcome(s) of their

responses, and (f) enacting the chosen behavioral (e.g.,





42



aggressive) strategy resulting in the culmination of the five sequential stages.

Socially competent behavior results from skillful and sequential processing at each step of the social information-processing model described above (Dodge et al., 1987, Crick & Dodge,'1994). Children who behave aggressively perceive, interpret, and make decisions about social stimuli in maladaptive ways in each of the social information-processing steps (Dodge & Crick, 1990; Dodge & Price, 1994) The likelihood of their engaging in aggressive acts subsequently increases (Dodge & Somberg, 1987). Children who behave reactively aggressive experience problems during the early stages of social informationprocessing and generally display biases when selectively attending to and recalling threatening social cues (Dodge & Frame, 1982). In contrast to nonaggressive boys, aggressive boys who display reactive behavior are more inaccurate in interpreting their peers' intentions as hostile when they are not (Dodge & Coie, 1987). These children experience problems with hypervigilance to hostile cues, hostile attributions, and unwarranted fear responses (Dodge, 1991) that cause them to retaliate aggressively when feeling provoked (Dodge, Lochman, Harnish, & Pettit, 1997).





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Because reactive forms of aggressive behavior are

contingent on perceiving a situation as threatening, social cognitive mechanisms initially involve deficits in encoding and interpretation of cues (Dodge & Schwartz, 1997). In a reactive response to a provocation, related information first is encoded through sensory reception and perception followed by a response search resulting in accessing and enacting aggressive behavioral responses from long-term memory (Dodge, 1991). Thus, the pattern of social-cognitive difficulties can range from initial perceptions of social cues and subsequent problem-solving skills to later outcome expectations and self-perceptions (Lochman & Dodge, 1994). When feeling threatened, previous negative reinforcement influences the intensity of children's motivation to inflict harm in reactive aggressive episodes which may escalate in spite of the target's submission (Coie, Dodge, Terry, & Wright, 1991). Increased skills in self-control can negate hostility associated with reactive aggression that is fueled by frustration and/or perceived provocation (Coie & Koeppl, 1990).

Social information-processing theory also uses

reinforcement principles to help explain the development and maintenance of proactive forms of aggressive behavior





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in children. Decreased flexibility in the social cognitivestyles of children who are aggressive is related to the latter steps of the reformulated social informationprocessing model (Rubin, Bream, & Rose-Krasnor, 1991). Children's proactive aggressive behavior is a response to their learned reinforcement patterns and suggests their aggressive behavior will result in an expected response (e.g., a peer's submission or material gain). For example, characteristic of the fourth step of the reformulated social information-processing model, children who display proactive aggression search for previously-learned social behaviors (e.g., both overt and covert forms of aggression) in their long term memory because of their past success with these behaviors. These students are more likely to suggest bribe or manipulation strategies and less likely to offer prosocial strategies (Rubin, Moller, & Emptage, 1987).

Positive evaluations of the likely consequences of aggressive behavior, also evident in later steps of the reformulated model, are associated with proactiveinstrumental aggression (Dodge et al., 1997; Dodge & Schwartz, 1997). Although typically characterized as displaying ineffective, irrelevant, and hostile behaviors





45



(Dodge, Pettit, McClaskey, & Brown, 1986), children who behave proactively aggressive are less capable of recognizing these behaviors as maladaptive because of distorted perceptions caused by their reinforcement history. Social information-processing difficulties in these children vary depending on their particular social goals and their history of reinforcement for aggressive behavior (Rubin, Moller, & Emptage, 1987).

Developmental Trends

Research is needed to identify and describe

relationships and causal processes that may account for differences in the developmental pathways aggression follows, leading to peer rejection (Bierman & Wargo, 1995). Children who behave reactively aggressive generally are thought to have an earlier history of peer rejection than do children who behave proactively aggressive. Case studies have revealed children who display reactive aggressive behavior generally begin exhibiting their problematic behavior at 41 years of age, 2 years earlier than children with proactive forms of aggressive behavior (Dodge et al., 1997). The verbally and physically disruptive behaviors exhibited by children who display reactively aggressive behavior may lead to their rejection at initially higher





46



rates than those who display instrumental aggression and/or bullying (Bierman, Smoot, & Aumiller, 1993). Developmental Aspects of Reactive Aggression

Age-differentiated cross-sectional and longitudinal

studies with children who are aggressive are needed because developmental trends in children's social cognition suggest that the nature of aggression may change with age (Lochman & Dodge, 1994). Aggression, especially overt physical aggression, occurs more commonly among younger than older children (Pettit, Bakshi, Dodge, & Coie, 1990). Among younger children, reactive aggression may be more accepted because they lack other forms of coping and such behavior represents self-defense mechanisms (Coie et al., 1991). Children in the early elementary school grades also are reluctant to directly confront children who are aggressive for fear of retaliation (Coie et al., 1995).

As changes in social cognition occur in older

children, peer relations become further complicated. The context in which aggression occurs increasingly differentiates whether a response will be accepted (Pettit et al., 1990). Reactive aggression is socially less acceptable among older children because they are better able to distinguish between hostile behavior that is and is





47



not justified (Coie et al., 1991). As children increase in age and cognitive maturity, they are more likely to evaluate aggression negatively (Crick & Dodge, 1996; Coie et al., 1991), to become mistrustful of children who are aggressive (Dodge, 1989), and to react aggressively in response to their own attributions of hostile intent in aggressive peers (Dodge, 1980).

Aggressive boys are rejected by peers because of their physically aggressive, argumentative, disruptive, imperceptive, and less prosocial behaviors (Bierman, Smoot, & Aumiller, 1993). For example, reactive children are more likely to escalate the levels of their aggressive behavior during an initially hostile interaction rather than stop, even after the peer has stopped responding (Coie et al., 1991). Children who have been rejected frequently because of their aggressive behavior respond less competently in social situations than they are capable of because of their expectations of rejection, rather than lack of social skills (Rabiner & Coie, 1989). However, when led to expect that unfamiliar peers will like them, some of the rejected (3rd grade) boys still were not able to refrain from problematic behavior (e.g., fighting) upon initial engagement with their peers. Children who are aggressive





48



react with hostility regardless of what others may expect of them. For example, when in relatively new social situations, children who behave reactively aggressive respond with a hostile-attribution bias even though peers do not have any preconceptions about them (Coie et al., 1991).

As children with reactive aggressive behavior problems become older and increasingly experience rejection by their peers, their behavior may intensify and further alienate them from the normative peer group. These children subsequently develop a pessimistic anticipation of being disliked and experience further rejection by their peers (Rabiner & Coie, 1989). A self-fulfilling prophecy becomes established in that maladaptive social informationprocessing patterns within these children become entrenched and escalate over time, thus increasing peers' hostility toward them (Crick & Dodge, 1996; Younger & Piccinin, 1989). In general, rejected children who behave aggressively justify their use of continued aggression as they become increasingly aware of the negative consequences of their behavior (Dodge, 1980). However, studies indicate that children who are aggressive are more likely to have long term problems with peer rejection when displaying





49



reactive rather than proactive aggression (Volling, MacKinnon-Lewis, Rabiner, & Baradaran, 1993).

It was thought that more extensive interventions

(e.g., social skills training) were necessary to increase the repertoire and use of prosocial behaviors when children displaying reactive aggressive behavior interact with unfamiliar peers. Evidence suggests that older children who continue to display aggressive behavior pay a high social price for any immediate, short-term personal benefits derived from their behavior because of peer rejection and later involvement with deviant peer groups (Coie et al., 1991). Reactive forms of children's aggressive behavior and a decrease in social competence may increase the risk for peer rejection at an early age. Developmental Aspects of Instrumental and Relational Forms
of Proactive Aggression

Children who behave proactively aggressive evaluate aggressive acts positively as a means of obtaining instrumental goals (e.g., covert antisocial acts such as stealing another child's eraser). In contrast to findings about reactive aggression, instrumental forms of proactive aggression appear more positively related to classroom peer status by young children (Price & Dodge, 1989). The researchers speculate that such "object-oriented"





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aggression might be perceived as assertive behavior associated with leadership and is more acceptable in young children than overt, reactive forms of aggressive behavior. Furthermore, older children generally preferred goals invested in social relations to goals invested in personal gratification (Crick & Dodge, 1996). Older children who engage in instrumental aggression (e.g., stealing the eraser for the sake of material gain) experience more peer rejection than do younger children who also engaged in instrumental aggression (Coie et al., 1991).

Relational forms of proactive aggression are

associated with social maladjustment and can appear in children's behavioral repertoires at relatively young ages (e.g., 3- to 5- year-olds) (Crick, Casas, & Mosher, 1997). Although both boys and girls display relational forms of aggression, differences often exist in their expression. Overt acts of relational aggression (e.g., hitting, shoving, and verbal and physical intimidation), characterized by physical harm against or dominance over others, are likely to be instrumental in peer rejection and later social maladjustment in boys (Coie & Kupersmidt, 1983; Crick, 1996; Dodge, 1983). Socialized aggression, characterized by inflicting damage towards another's self-





51



esteem, social status, or both (Crick, 1997; Galen & Underwood, 1997), hinders the affiliative, intimacy goals typical in girls (Crick et al., 1997). Purposeful manipulative behavior in girls' peer groups (e.g., social exclusion' and verbal aggression) results in subsequent peer rejection that is relatively stable over time and predictive of girls' future social maladjustment (Crick, 1996; Crick & Bigbee, 1998).

Although nonphysical forms of relational aggression in girls differ from physical forms of relational aggression in boys, the same negative social outcomes occur (e.g., peer rejection) (Rys & Bear, 1997). Using relational aggression in an attempt to manipulate or control relationships with others, instead, destroys intimacy and trust (e.g., using social exclusion or rumor-spreading as forms of social exclusion, threatening to withdraw acceptance or friendship as a way to control others) (Crick, 1997). Thus, fewer reciprocal friendships are likely to result, and developmental differences appear because older children place more importance on relational aspects of friendship (Rys & Bear, 1997). In contrast to results in one study with 3rd grade boys, 4th and 5th grade peer-rejected girls in another study by the same





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researchers behaved more socially competent in their increased social participation when they were led to expect social success with unfamiliar peers (Rabiner & Coie, 1989).

Aggression and Social Competence

Increased understanding, modification, and prevention of aggression depends on further research about social competence and its relationship to the development and operation of prosocial behavior (Dumas et al., 1994). Attempts to investigate measurable changes in the social competence of children who behave aggressively are relevant to understanding the maintenance and/or escalation of different forms of aggression. Clear identification of differences in social competence of children who are aggressive may increase the relevance of diagnostic information (Dodge, 1987). Children who are aggressive and subject to peer rejection are at subsequent risk for serious forms of antisocial behavior disorders and are an increasing focus of developmental and clinical research (Coie et al., 1995).

Social Skills as Distinguished from Social Competence

A general set of behaviors may lead to peer acceptance of children across all age groups (Coie et al., 1990).





53



These include being helpful, friendly, interactive, and following rules. An ability to develop socially competent relationships with peers is regarded as one of the most important developmental tasks of childhood (Hartup, 1989; Richards & Dodge, 1982) as well as protection against later behavioral and/or emotional disorders (Volling et al., 1993). McFall (1982) demonstrated the existence of relationships between social skills and social competence. Social skills were defined as the strategies and tactics used to negotiate daily social tasks. Social competence was characterized as a summative judgment social agents (e.g., peers, teachers, and parents) make about the overall effectiveness of one's social behavior.

Effective social interactions are influenced strongly by social problem-solving processing identified in the social information-processing literature. The problemsolving model of Rubin et al. (1991) includes three levels in assessing a child's social skills. At the level of individual acts, the relative distribution of social goals and targets and the child's perception and understanding of task relevant information (e.g., the child who behaves reactively aggressive tends to attribute situations with a hostile intent and view another's action as a willful





54



intent to cause harm) is assessed. At the level of social effects, the social outcome (e.g., peer rejection for aggressive behavior) of the child's as well as others' judgments of the child's strategic choices are assessed. Lastly, at the level of behavioral sequences, the child's responses to failure (e.g., escalating aggressive behavior or isolation from the normative peer group) are assessed.

Peers who regard a child's social skills as

ineffective in specific situations are likely to judge the child socially incompetent. Findings from longitudinal and cross-sectional studies have established the key role social skills play in determining children's socially adaptive behavior (Walker, Irvin, Noell, & Singer, 1992). Problem behaviors contribute to the isolation from the normative peer group of children who are aggressive and hasten their aggregation into antisocial peer groups (Kupersmidt, Burchinal, & Patterson, 1995). Examination of relationships between aggression and peer social status is instrumental in understanding risk factors associated with maladaptive behavior patterns (Day et al., 1992). The delineation of risk factors associated with the manifestation and maintenance of aggressive behavior is





55



further enhanced by examining social competence in children (Volling et al., 1993).

Relationships Between Peer Rejection and Social Competence
in Children Who Are Aggressive

Acceptance and rejection are universal behaviors that reflect the feelings of a peer group toward a particular child (Bagwell, Newcomb, & Bukowski, 1998). Prosocial behavior is associated more positively with peer status than maladaptive behavior (e.g., aggression). It is not accepted because it deviates from the norm (Boivin et al., 1995). Chronic rejection by one's peers contributes to escalating social difficulties among children who are aggressive and increases their risk of developing a serious conduct disorder in adolescence and an antisocial personality disorder in adulthood (Dumas, Neese, Prinz, & Blechman, 1996).

Aggressive boys and girls tend to adopt a pervasive pattern of social maladjustment when rejected by their peers (Kupersmidt & Patterson, 1991). Hostile peer relations and antisocial behaviors are logical contributing factors to the development of maladaptive behavior patterns in children who behave aggressively. Children rejected by their peers and significant adults (e.g., parents, teachers) typically do not benefit from opportunities to





56



learn appropriate prosocial behavior and redeem themselves from their negative behavior (Ialong, Vaden-Kiernan, & Kellam, 1998; Mize & Ladd, 1990). Furthermore, compared to children who are nonaggressive, children who are aggressive generally are unaware of the extent of their rejection by peers (Zakriski & Coie, 1996). These children are unmotivated to change their maladaptive behavior patterns and may over-estimate their social competence rather than be amenable to benefiting from social skills' interventions.

Early in elementary school, aggressive and peerrejected children were found to be three times more likely to have inadequate social adjustments by the end of their first year of middle school than children who were neither aggressive nor rejected (Coie et al., 1992). The persistence of aggression throughout childhood is likely to drive these children to associate with deviant peer groups for acceptance and reinforcement of their behavior. Identifying factors related to early social difficulties and subsequent maladjustment contributes to understanding how aggressive behavior increases the risk of peer rejection (Hymel, Rubin, Rowden, & LeMare, 1990; Kupersmidt & Coie, 1990).





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Maintaining a positive social status seems to become

increasingly complex in older children because of a greater emphasis on displaying prosocial behavior (e.g., sharing, problem-solving, good sportsmanship) among peers (Coie et al., 1990). Furthermore, the impact of aggression on social relations becomes increasingly complex in older children because of expanding differences in what may constitute an aggressive act. The frequency of physical aggression and the diversity of acts expand to other types of negative behaviors (e.g., verbal aggression and classroom disruptions) (Coie et al., 1990). For example, ineffective communication patterns of children who behave reactively aggressive inhibit cooperative interpersonal exchanges (Dumas et al., 1994). Opportunities for engaging in cooperative social exchanges, effective conflict management, and intimate interaction with other children increasingly are restricted for older children who behave reactively aggressive (Cillessen, Ijzendoorn, & van Lieshout, 1992). These children also are unable to generate as many effective solutions to conflict as are children who are nonaggressive. Such problem-solving skills still may be regarded as competent, yet limited because of offering only one solution (Richards & Dodge, 1982).





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Coping-Competence Model

An understanding of the development of serious

antisocial behavior disorders (e.g., conduct disorders) in children with reactive aggressive behavior problems who lack social competence is facilitated by the skills illustrated in the coping-competence model (Blechman & Culhane, 1993). The coping-competence model postulates that an increased repertoire of prosocial behaviors reduces reliance on maladaptive coping skills (e.g., antisocial and aggressive strategies) (Dumas et al., 1994). According to the coping-competence model, four processes hinder the development of social competence.

First, prosocial coping skills, favorable social reputation, and high self-esteem across the early and middle childhood years positively influence the development of children's social competence. However, socialization risks are increased in older children who are reactively aggressive because they more frequently experience affective (e.g., aroused anger caused by a perceived provocation), social (e.g., unsuccessful initial peer entry), and achievement (e.g., low tolerance for frustration when attempting an academic task) challenges.





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Second, prosocial coping strategies (e.g., information exchange, anger management, and problem solving) result in nonviolent resolutions, remorse for wrongdoings, and compassion and empathy for others. These strategies typically are absent in children with reactive aggressive behavior problems.

Third, supportive social relationships with

significant others (e.g., family, peers, and teachers) reinforce prosocial coping skills. However, children who behave reactively aggressive have not learned how to regulate their affect, generalize an early history of negative (e.g., coercive) adult relationships to the school setting, and do not establish positive peer relationships or gain academic success.

Fourth, children's prosocial coping skills foster strong attachment bonds with significant adult figures. These adults are influential in fostering adaptive socialization skills in children.

The fourth process in the coping competence model also is relevant to proactive aggression. Children who behave proactively aggressive seek interpersonal dominance and control rather than the maintenance of social relationships. These children frequently lack emotional





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attachments with significant adults and behave in maladaptive ways that increasingly result in adults' disapproval. In such instances, social skills of children with proactive aggressive behavior problems are maladaptive and invested in personal gratification rather than mutual relational goals. However, relationships between peer rejection and covert forms of antisocial behavior in children who display proactive forms of aggression are not well researched or understood (Hinshaw, Zupan, Simmel, Nigg, & Melnick, 1997).

Increased aggression in peer-rejected children is attributed to their lack of social survival skills (Patterson, Reid, & Dishion, 1992). These skills are rooted in the demand-compliance transactions between children and their parents and teachers that result in coercive behavior patterns and frequently associated with proactive aggression (Ialongo et al., 1998). According to social learning theory, the aggressor is reinforced for their coercive behavior when clear expectations of prosocial behavior are inconsistently reinforced by significant adults (Hinshaw et al., 1997). For example, children who behave proactively aggressive will engage in coercive behavior (e.g., verbal intimidation) until they gain





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negative reinforcement (e.g., the withdrawal of the teacher's demand). Such coercive interactions with significant adults may encourage maladaptive social skills for these children.

Conflict with Normative Peer Group Standards

Peers have an implicit understanding of the behavioral norms expected of children within a group context from an early age and they are sensitive to the implications of violations to these norms (Coie et al., 1990). Children, including those who are aggressive, can also successfully estimate the negative aspects contributing to the weakened social status for peer-rejected children (Zakriski & Coie, 1996). However, peer-rejected boys were found to be selfabsorbed and socially insensitive, persisting in aggression when social norms lead most other boys, including nonrejected aggressive boys, to stop (Coie et al., 1995). In particular, peers evaluate rejected, aggressive boys who display reactive behavior problems in uniformly negative ways as opposed to more mixed ways for aggressive boys who display proactive behavior problems (Dodge, 1991).

Among children who are aggressive, lack of socially

competent performances (e.g., with initial peer group entry and maladaptive responses to provocative situations)





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increases difficulties in achieving positive social interactions (Walker et al., 1992; Dodge, McClaskey, & Feldman, 1985). The lack of social skills in children who behave reactively aggressive (e.g., a cue-utilization deficit influencing one to encode cues in the environment as hostile when they are not, such as an accidental bump by a peer) hinders their ability to establish and maintain peer acceptance. Peer rejection prevents opportunities to acquire socially competent skills that are dependent on being further refined through interactions with other children (Coie & Cillessen, 1993). Children who behave reactively aggressive are most likely to have difficulty with the ability to respond prosocially (i.e., cue utilization deficits) and, in turn, cause peer rejection (Volling et al., 1993).

Rejected children also tend to display aggression at more inappropriate times causing their peers to more actively dislike them (Spetter, La Greca, Hogan, & Vaughn, 1992). Peer-rejected boys initially approach others more often than boys who eventually become popular, yet their social approaches tend to be relatively short and lead to peer rejection because of inappropriate behavior (Dodge, 1983). Furthermore, social initiations by children who





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behave reactively aggressive are characterized by inappropriate timing (e.g., disrupting a peer during quiet classwork time) (Dodge, Coie, & Brakke, 1982).

Bierman and Wargo (1995) suggest two possibilities to explain the persistence of peer rejection of children who behave aggressively in school. First, these children may lack corrective feedback from their peers. Without learning cues to modify their behavior, the severity of aggressive behavior escalates throughout childhood. When these children are unable to adjust their maladaptive behavioral responses, problems related to their aggression may subsequently promote the development of more severe conduct problems.

Second, early social learning factors (e.g., punitive disciplinary practices and coercive parental interactions) help to explain how aggressive and conduct problems in children generalize to the school setting (Patterson, 1982). These children may subsequently be ostracized and subjected to negative socializing peer influences. Children who are aggressive then are drawn to other socially maladaptive peers in an attempt to gain social acceptance for their behavior.





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Social competence, as assessed in children with

reactive aggressive behavior problems, is an important variable because aggressive behaviors are dependent on the social context (Dodge et al., 1985). An interpersonal exchange begins with a set of social cues. Unsuccessful entry into a peer group and maladaptive responses to peer provocations exemplify socialization difficulties among children who behave reactively aggressive. In contrast, children with proactive aggressive behavior problems who are not rejected for their behavior still may display important prosocial skills (e.g., competent leadership skills) that compensate for their aggressive behavior (Coie & Cillessen, 1993). Research on the relationship between the differences in the display of aggressive behavior and judgments of social competence is needed.

In conclusion, the current study comprehensively investigates relationships that may exist between aggressive behavior and children's social status and social competence in the elementary school grades. Previous research is lacking in the investigation of social qualities in children who display different types of aggressive behavior that incorporates possible differences across all of the elementary-school grades. Furthermore,





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studies that incorporate different perspectives (e.g., teachers and classroom peers) of distinctions in type of aggressive behavior in children are lacking. The current study seeks to increase our understanding of relationships that may precede the development of more serious behavioral disorders in elementary-school children who display constant difficulties with aggression.












CHAPTER THREE
METHODOLOGY

Participants

Participants were drawn from a pool of 1,950

elementary school students enrolled in grades kindergarten through 5. The school district is located in a northcentral rural area of Florida with predominantly Caucasian (78%), African-American (20%), and Asian and Hispanic (2%) families from lower-to middle-class backgrounds. According to the school district's Data Book Profile, 13% of the district's population lives below the poverty level, which compares to 12% across the state and 13% nationwide. More specific information pertaining to the percentage of ethnic backgrounds and socioeconomic status for each of the district's five elementary schools was not available. All of the teachers from the district's five elementary schools were invited to participate. Of the 88 classroom teachers asked to participate in this study, 47 (53%) agreed (Table 3).

The teachers provided data on the aggressive behaviors of 796 (42%) elementary school students, from which a sample was drawn for this study of 191 elementary school



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Table 3

Distribution of Participating Teachers Across the District's Elementary Schools by Grade Group Elementary Schools

Grades 1 2 3 4 5



K-I 1 3 5 3 5 2-3 2 1 4 3 6 4-5 2 0 2 3 7


Total & % 5/6 4/9 11/15 9/28 18/30 of Teachers 83% 44% 74% 32% 60% who Participated





students in grades kindergarten through 5 identified as displaying reactive or both reactive and proactive aggression by their teachers (Table 4 and 5). Although not collected for the purposes of this study, information regarding the ethnic background of the students, as well as the ethnic distribution for each of the elementary schools could have enhanced the study's external validity regarding the extent that findings can be generalized beyond the district's primarily Caucasian population (i.e., 78%).





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Table 4

Distribution of the Reactive Aggression Student Sample Across the District's Elementary Schools by Grade Group and Gender


Elementary Schools

1 2 3 4 5

Grades M F M F M F M F M F



K-I 1 0 2 1 2 1 3 0 4 2 2-3 7 2 1 0 6 1 1 0 6 2 4-5 2 1 0 0 0 0 0 1 5 1




Table 5

Distribution of the Reactive and Proactive Aggression Student Sample Across the District's Elementary Schools by Grade Group and Gender



Elementary Schools

1 2 3 4 5

Grades M F M F M F M F M F



K-i 1 0 4 0 7 6 7 2 9 9 2-3 5 3 3 0 10 1 3 0 15 7 4-5 6 2 6 1 10 3 3 0 11 5





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Instrumentation

Reactive and Proactive Aggression Teacher-Rating Scale

A model to distinguish reactive from proactive forms of childhood aggression has been formulated that are based on teacher ratings (Dodge & Coie, 1987). Reactive and proactive aggressive subtypes present distinct patterns of behavior despite being substantially similar (e.g., both aggression subtypes concern overt types of behaviors) (Poulin & Boivin, 2000). Teachers complete a scale that includes six statements describing two types of aggressive behavior: reactive and proactive. A Likert scale ranging from 1 (never true) to 5 (always true) accompanies these statements. In an attempt to disguise the scale's primary intent (i.e., to identify deviant aggression), the items used to identify aggressive children are embedded randomly among 20 additional statements for a total of 26 statements that describe social and academic behaviors.

Reactive aggression is represented in three

statements: "When this child has been teased or threatened, he/she gets angry easily and strikes back," 'this child always claims that other children are to blame in a fight and feels they started the trouble," and "when a peer accidentally hurts this child (i.e., by bumping into





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him/her), this child assumes the peer meant to do it, then overreacts with anger/fighting." Proactive aggression also is represented in three statements: "This child gets other children to gang up on a peer that he/she does not like," "this child uses physical force (or threatens to use force) in order to dominate other kids," and "this child threatens or bullies others in order to get his/her own way."

The internal consistency of ratings of reactive and proactive aggressive behaviors is high, with coefficient alphas of .90 for the reactive aggression items and .91 for the proactive aggression items (Dodge & Coie, 1987). The authors indicated that only modest support was obtained for the distinction between reactive and proactive types of aggressive tendencies in children. The median interscale item correlation is .60, and the correlation between the two scale scores is .76. However, the authors reported that while the two scales correlate strongly with each other, and although the within-scale item correlations are higher than the between-scale item correlations, such a pattern supports the construct validities of the two aggression subtypes, according to Campbell and Fiske's (1959) multitrait, multimethod approach.





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Dodge and Coie (1987) examined concurrent (criterionrelated) validity by contrasting four groups of socially rejected 1st grade and 3rd grade boys: those who fit criteria as displaying reactive but not proactive aggression, those who displayed proactive but not reactive aggression, those who displayed both reactive and proactive aggression, and those who were rejected but displayed neither reactive nor proactive aggression. Their findings provided preliminary support for the separate behavioral profiles of boys displaying reactive versus proactive aggression. For example, five of eight between-group analyses yielded significant main effects. Predictably, children in the reactive and proactive aggressive groups, all of whom were highly rejected by their peers, received ratings that indicated significantly higher degrees of aggressive behavioral problems than those who were nonaggressive and were not rejected by their peers. Furthermore, peer ratings reliably differentiated behavioral differences between aggressive peers with reactive and proactive behavior problems. Aggressive children who behaved proactively received higher scores on leadership, displaying a good sense of humor, and being bothersome to their peers, while





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aggressive children who behaved reactively mainly were viewed as being bothersome to their peers.

The constructs of reactive and proactive aggression differed significantly on three peer-nomination measures (Dodge & Coie, 1987). Construct validity was found in the application of the multitrait-multimethod approach of Campbell and Fiske (1959). The finding of significant correlations between similar traits across different methods provides evidence of convergent validity. For example, a teacher-rated measure of reactive aggression was positively related to trained adults' direct observation of reactive aggressive behavior in children's play. Proactive aggression also was positively related to the direct observation of proactive aggressive behavior in children's play.

The pattern of correlation between teacher ratings and more direct observations of reactive and proactive aggression provides modest evidence of discriminant validity. The factor analysis of items from the scale loaded on the two factors concerning reactive and proactive aggression in the predicted manner. However, the intrascale correlations were judged to be higher than the interscale





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correlations based on their absolute magnitude rather than on the results of the statistical test.

In their study, Dodge and Coie (1987) split the children at the median on each of the reactive and proactive aggression scale scores to identify four subgroups: reactively aggressive, proactively aggressive, both reactively and proactively aggressive, and nonaggressive. The median for the reactive aggression scale was 9.2, and the median for the proactive aggression scale was 6.6. From a total of 339 boys rated by their teachers, 80 boys were identified as pervasively rejected by their peers and subsequently classified as follows: 14% were classified reactively aggressive, 9% were classified proactively aggressive, 49% were classified reactively and proactively aggressive, and 29% were classified nonaggressive.

In Dodge and Coie's (1987) study, the reactive and

proactive aggression scale scores both ranged from 3 to 15 and were calculated as the sum of the three items. Each of the items on the scale had a minimum score of 1 and maximum score of 5, using a Likert scale. The combined reactive and proactive aggression scale scores were composed of all six aggression items and ranged from 6 to 30 and were





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calculated as the sum of the three items from the reactive scale and the three items from the proactive scale. Table 6 contains the means and standard deviations for the initial reactive and proactive aggression scales by total sample and grade group for the current study. Aggression scores were based on the total sample rather than on each grade group to be consistent with Dodge and Coie's (1987) study. Table 7 contains the means and standard deviations for the aggression scores .for each aggression group in each of the grade level groups.

To be included in this study, elementary students had to demonstrate solely reactive types of aggression or both reactive and proactive types of aggression. In this study I identified aggression type on the basis of the data collected on all 796 of the children who were rated by their teachers. However, students who demonstrated solely proactive types of aggression were not included because of concerns that the criterion for inclusion in the proactive aggression group was too low (e.g., some students identified as displaying proactive aggression in this study received scores consistent with a low average incidence of these behaviors). Furthermore, because of the restricted






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Table 6

Means and Standard Deviations for the Initial Reactive and Proactive Aggression Questions by Total and Grade Group


Student Grade Groups

Total K-1 2-3 4-5 Aggression Group N M SD N M SD N M SD N M SD



Reactive Aggression 796 7.3 3.7 318 6.5 3.8 290 7.6 3.6 188 8.3 3.4 Proactive Aggression 796 5.4 2.9 318 4.9 2.9 290 5.3 2.8 188 6.5 3.1 Reactive & Proactive 796 12.7 6.3 318 11.4 6.4 290 12.9 6.0 188 14.9 6.2 Aggression





Table 7

Means and Standard Deviations of Aggression Scores for the Reactive and Combined Reactive and Proactive Aggression Groups by Grade Group




Student Grade Groups

K-I 2-3 4-5 Aggression Group N M SD N M SD N M SD



Reactive Aggression 16 12.0 1.1 26 11.9 1.1 10 11.4 0.8 Reactive & Proactive 45 21.8 3.6 47 22.8 2.7 47 23.5 2.6 Aggression






scope of the current study, students displaying reactive or both reactive and proactive aggression were not compared





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with students who did not display a significant amount of aggression.

A more stringent criterion than that used by Dodge and Coie (1987) was employed to identify the children as aggressive. Dodge and Coie's (1987) procedure of splitting the children at the median creates the possibility that students who display a low average level of aggressive behavior could be included in the study. To avoid this possiblity, scores that exceeded one standard deviation above the mean on the reactive aggression scale were used to identify children who were reactively aggressive in this study (Table 7). The mean and standard deviation for the total group on the reactive aggression scale were 7.3 and

3.7 respectively and on the proactive aggression scale were 5.4 and 2.9 respectively. Students who were included in the reactive aggression group were required to have a score of 11 or above, with 15 being the maximum score possible. Students who were included in the reactive and proactive aggression group also were required to have a proactive aggression scale score of 8 or above, with 15 being the maximum score possible.

With a scale score of 9 (out of a maximum of 15)

reflecting a generally average rating, students required a





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scale score of at least 10 or above to display a significant amount of reactive or proactive aggression according to the rater. With regard to concerns expressed earlier, some of the students who met the criterion for inclusion in the proactive aggression group reflected a lower than average score and indicated the amount of proactive aggression typically displayed was not significant according to the rater. In contrast, for inclusion in the reactive aggression group, a score of 11 or above was required that was consistent with an above average score and indicated the amount of reactive aggression typically displayed was significant according to the rater. Thus, all of the students included in the reactive aggression group were rated as displaying a significant amount of reactive aggression.

Children were included in the combined reactive and proactive aggression scale if their scores exceeded one standard deviation above the mean on both the reactive and proactive aggression scales separately. The mean and standard deviation for the combined reactive and proactive aggression scale was 12.8 and 6.3 respectively, for the total group. Of 796 children, 7% were classified reactively aggressive, 6% were classified proactively aggressive, 17%





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were classified reactively and proactively aggressive, and 70% were classified nonaggressive. Because of the more stringent inclusion criteria used, percentages of students displaying some type of aggression were lower than the percentages in Dodge and Coie's (1987) study. The Walker-McConnell Scale of Social Adjustment and School Adjustment

Walker and McConnell (1995) indicated that social skills are important foundations of competent student performance across diverse behavioral domains, student populations, and school settings. The Walker-McConnell Scale of Social Adjustment and School Adjustment utilized teacher ratings to measure the two primary adjustment domains typically subsumed under the broad term of social competence: adaptive behavior and interpersonal social competence. The authors described adaptive behavior as skills necessary to function in the classroom (e.g., selfdirection, personal responsibility, functional academic skills). Interpersonal social competence refers to skills necessary to maintain adequate social interactions and relationships with others (e.g., assertion, peer acceptance, communication skills).

The scale consists of 43 positively-worded

descriptions of social skills and yields an overall index





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of a student's social competence and school adjustment. Three subscales (i.e., teacher-preferred social behavior, peer-preferred social behavior, and school adjustment behavior) sample the adaptive behavior and interpersonal social competence domains. These three inter-related dimensions of social-behavioral competence are identified as important to a student's school success and personal effectiveness (Walker & McConnell, 1995). Examples of teacher-preferred social behavior include "shows sympathy for others," "responds to teasing or name calling by ignoring, changing the subject, or some other constructive means," and "is sensitive to the needs of others." Examples of peer-preferred social behavior include "shares laughter with peers," "plays or talks with peers for extended periods of time," and "invites peers to play or share activities." Examples of descriptions of school adjustment behavior include "attends to assigned tasks," listens carefully to teacher instructions and directions for assignments," and "answers or attempts to answer a question when called on by the teacher."

The scale's standardization sample consisted of 1,812 elementary school students in grades K through 6, from 15 states that represented each of four United States census





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zones: West, North Central, Northeast, and South. Among the total sample, 49% were female and 51% were male. Student race or ethnicity represented in the sample included Caucasians (80%), African-Americans (11%), Hispanics (1%), Asians (1%), and others (7%). Participating school districts were divided into urban (45%), suburban (29%), and rural (26%) categories.

Scoring of the Walker-McConnell Scale. The WalkerMcConnell Scale (elementary version) is scored by summing the teacher's numerical Likert ratings from "never occurs" (rated 1) to "frequently occurs" (rated 5) for each of the 43 items. The total raw score is obtained by adding these values for all 43 items and then converting them to a scale score with a mean of 100 and a standard deviation of 15. The mean of the standard score distribution for the three subscales is 10 with a standard deviation of 3. Subscale raw scores are obtained by summing the numerical values that comprise each of the three scales and then converting them to standard scores.

Reliability estimates. Moderate to high coefficients were obtained for the stability estimates of the WalkerMcConnell scale scores as reflected in test-retest ratings of teachers over a 4-week period. Correlations for the





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three subscales and total scale score were statistically significant (p<.05 and p<.01) for subscale 1, r=.85, subscale 2, r=.82, subscale 3, r=.67, and total scale score, r=.83). The stability of the peer-preferred subscale over a 3-year period was determined for 200 boys at-risk for developing antisocial behavior patterns (Hops, 1987). These correlations over 1-, 2-, and 3-year intervals were respectively: .48, .42, and .32 (p<.001).

High levels of internal consistency were indicated for the total scale score and subscale scores. To estimate the internal consistency, alpha coefficients were calculated for the normative sample on the total scale (.97) and three subscales (.96, .95, .96). Alpha coefficients exceeded .90 for each grade level from kindergarten through six (Walker & McConnell, 1995).

Moderate degrees of inter-rater reliability (p<.05) were reported (e.g., the total scale, .64, and three subscales, .62, .64, and .52) (Walker & McConnell, 1995). The authors noted that divergent ratings of identical students are common for those with different training and experiential backgrounds (e.g., teachers versus aides or regular versus special education teachers). The authors stated that adult ratings of social-behavioral attributes





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may vary because children perform divergently in the presence of different persons, settings, and situations (Mischel, 1969).

Validity estimates. Content validity of the WalkerMcConnell scale was based on the selection of items from an initial item pool designed to measure the two social skill domains: social competence and school adjustment. Factor analysis of the initial items (N = 134) resulted in the identification of items for the three subscales: teacherpreferred social behavior, peer-preferred social behavior, and school adjustment behavior. Item validity was estimated for both the total scale and subscales using item-total correlation indices. All items included in the final form of the scale contain item-total coefficients at .30 or above.

Both concurrent and predictive forms of criterionrelated validity are reported. Concurrent and predictive validity studies provide evidence using a broad range of criterion measures: maladaptive behavior, academic achievement, sociometric status, school discipline contacts and other records-based measures; parent, teacher and student reports; and direct observations of student behavior recorded in classroom and playground settings





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(Walker & McConnell, 1995). Pertinent to this study, negative peer nominations were found more commonly in children with conduct disorders who have low social competence than in those who have high social competence (Reid, 1990). The total score and three subscale scores from the Walker-McConnell scale correlates (.73, .68, .41, .81 respectively, at p<.001) with the Humphreys Children's Self-Control Scale (Humphreys, 1982), a measure reflecting a cognitive-behavioral conceptualization of self-control. This indicates that both scales, although appearing to measure different aspects of social competence (e.g., adaptive social behavior on the Walker-McConnell scale versus cognitive-behavioral aspects of social competence on the Humphreys), measure social competence.

Four studies examined the predictive validity of the Walker-McConnell scale (Walker & McConnell, 1995). Low social competence as measured by the Walker-McConnell scale together with two other qualities (e.g., discipline referrals and negative social behaviors on the playground) correctly classified the arrest status of 80% of a fifth grade sample 5 years later (Walker, Colvin, & Ramsey, 1995). The antisocial versus at-risk status of 80 boys in the tenth grade was predicted based on a reduced set of





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items of the Walker-McConnell scale from the fifth grade. The teacher-preferred subscale, recorded on elementary students, predicted police arrest records of middle school students (Walker, Stieber, Ramsey, & O'Neill, 1993). Patterson, Crosby, and Vuchinich (1992) classified antisocial boys in the 10th grade from teacher ratings of social skills made in the 5th grade.

Finally, lower predictive validity was noted in the ratings of social competence among teenage students as measured by the Walker-McConnell peer-preferred subscale scores (at ages 11 vs. 12, 11 vs. 13, 11 vs. 14, and 11 vs. 15 years old) as noted by correlations in the low to moderate range (e.g., .61, .44, .35, .18). The following longitudinally recorded variables were: antisocial construct scores (Dishion, 1987), academic engagement (Tilly, Reschly, Flugam, & Good, 1993), and association with deviant peers (Patterson et al., 1992). Teacher ratings of social skills predicted student status on school adjustment variables across four school years.

Positive intercorrelations among the three subscale scores and total scale score provide evidence of the scale's construct validity (Walker & McConnell, 1995). The authors believe that the scale differentiates social skill





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competencies that vary systematically across both settings and types of handicapping conditions (e.g., mental retardation, learning disability, conduct disorder).

Evidence of the scale's discriminant validity was

obtained in two relevant studies. One study assessed the degree to which total scale and subscale scores differentiated students who were and were not identified as seriously emotionally disturbed (Walker & McConnell, 1995). The total scale and three subscale scores were moderately successful in correctly distinguishing group membership for students in the Severely Emotionally Disturbed and nonSeverely Emotionally Disturbed student groups (e.g., coefficients .81, .77, .69, and .65).

A second study differentiated male students,

identified as being at-risk for antisocial behavior, from normal students (Walker, Shinn, O'Neill, & Ramsey, 1987). Scores from the Walker-McConnell correctly classified 98% of the students in the two groups rated in the fall and 100% of the students in the two groups rated in the spring of the same school year.

Peer Nominations

Understanding how children are viewed by their peers increases our understanding of their social functioning.





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The social status of a student may be assessed from positive and negative nomination totals (Sale & Carey, 1992). Specifically, peer nomination data may be used to assess peer acceptance and rejection. Peer nomination procedures have the advantage of providing multiple observations of the same behaviors by a number of different observers (e.g., all of the children in the given child's classroom) (Huesmann et al., 1994).

Peer rejection, as found in negative peer nominations, is relatively stable across elementary grades and can help identify those who later are perceived as aggressive (as measured by the Peer Evaluation Inventory; Johnston, Pelham, Crawford, & Atkins, 1988). Children also have clear ideas about whom not to associate with, in relation to the peer-rejected social status of aggressive children (Coie et al., 1988). Sociometric measures based on peer nominations offer a reliable and valid measure of children's peer-group status (Johnson et al., 1994).

Peer nomination data often are acquired by asking students to nominate up to three peers whom they "like most" and up to three peers whom they "least liked" from a copy of their class roster. Four categories characterize the results of student peer nominations (Maassen, van der





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Linden, & Akkermans, 1997; Coie, Dodge, & Coppotelli, 1982). The first two concern social preference (e.g., the popular child typically receives many positive nominations and the rejected child typically receives many negative nominations). The latter two concern social impact (e.g., the controversial child typically receives many positive and negative nominations and the neglected child typically receives neither positive nor negative nominations). The current study only distinguished "rejected" children from "popular" children because few investigations have included comparisons with the "controversial" and "neglected" children (Coie, Dodge, & Kupersmidt, 1990).

Children in the present study were asked to nominate the three children in their classroom with whom they most preferred to play and three with whom they least preferred to play. First, the children in each classroom were briefed as a group about the nature of what they were going to be asked. Second, the need for confidentiality of their answers was reviewed with the children. Third, the children were briefly asked to verbally state their nominations to the guidance counselor on an individual basis in private. Lastly, after all of the nominations were gathered the children reconvened as a group, reminders of





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confidentiality were given, and any lingering concerns were addressed.

Scoring of peer nominations. Each student's negative and positive status is determined by either summing nominations or calculating an average rating (Johnson, Ironsmith, & Poteat, 1994). In the present study, the sums of the number of rejections for each of the children identified as aggressive (i.e., how many times a child was nominated by peers as not being liked) were used. Thus, the extent of rejection as a function of grade and style of aggression was investigated. With this approach, the data are continuous rather than dichotomous.

Reliability estimates. Test-retest reliability of peer nominations has been adequate (Coie, Dodge, & Coppotelli, 1982; Denham & McKinley, 1993; Maassen et al., 1997). In contrast to preschool children, the nominations of schoolaged children are more reliable because of their more highly developed social skills (Denham & McKinley, 1993). A Pearson product-moment correlation of .65 was found for peer nominations taken 12 weeks apart for each student, from grade levels 3 to 5 (Coie et al., 1982). In addition, Pearson product-moment correlations above .70 also was found in peer nominations taken for multiple intervals of 8





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weeks or less for elementary school children (Nangle, Ellis, Christopher, & Hansen, 1993). Lastly, Coie & Dodge (1983) reported the stability of the "rejected" students to be greater than "neglected" students over a 12 month period.

Validity estimates. The validity of the peer nomination method is based on the assumption that classmates are the individuals most affected by the social behavior of their peers (Coie & Dodge, 1983; Coie & Kupersmidt, 1983). For purposes of this current study, children who behave aggressively are thought to negatively influence their peers' overall perceptions of them.

Concurrent validity of peer nominations was

investigated through studies examining their correlation with other measures of social competence, including behavioral observations and teacher ratings (Goldman et al., 1980; Johnson et al., 1994). Children's sociometric status predicts adolescent- and adult-adjustment problems as well as future maladaptive social outcomes (e.g., criminal acts, dropping out of school, psychopathology) (Cowen, Pederson, Babijian, Izzo, & Trost, 1973; Roff, Sells, & Golden, 1972; Ullman, 1957). A review of literature on peer rejection rates in aggressive children





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indicates that aggressive behavior and low acceptance in childhood reliably predicted undesirable developmental outcomes in adulthood (e.g., antisocial behavioral problems) (Parker & Asher, 1987).

Procedures

The primary purpose of this research was to determine the relationships between teachers' perceptions of the social competence and peer rejection status of children with reactive and combined reactive and proactive aggressive behavior problems. Teachers completed the Reactive and Proactive Aggression Teacher-Rating Scale (Dodge & Coie, 1996) designed to distinguish children who display either reactive or proactive aggression. The teachers also completed the Walker-McConnell Scale of Social Competence and School Adjustment (1995) in order to identify differences in the levels of social competence in the aggressive children. To reduce bias, rather than have teachers focus only on the children in their classroom with behavior problems and risk harsher judgments of behavior, teachers were instructed to complete these rating scales on all children in their classroom. Finally, peer nominations were obtained from all students in the classrooms of those teachers who cooperated with the study. Students





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specifically were asked to "name 3 peers with whom they most preferred to play" and "name 3 peers with whom they least liked to play." These data provided information on the extent of the aggressive students' peer acceptance and rejection.

The researcher received approval from the district's school board to conduct the study. The initial purpose of the data collection was to help each school identify students in need of social skills training and to more evenly distribute students identified as aggressive and rejected by peers in inclusion classes for the 1999-2000 school year. Parents were sent a letter explaining the purpose of teachers' completion of the behavioral rating forms and acquiring peer nomination data on their students. Parents were instructed to return the letter to the teacher if they did not wish the forms to be completed and their child to participate in the peer nomination data collection. Only nine letters from nine classrooms spread across four of the five elementary schools (e.g., one from school #1, none from school #2, three from school #3, two from school #4, and three from school #5) were returned. Across the grade level groups, two of the letters were returned in K-I grade classrooms, four of the letters were




Full Text

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PEER REJECTION RATES AND PERCEIVED SOCIAL COMPETENCE AMONG ELEMENTARY-SCHOOL CHILDREN WHO DISPLAY REACTIVE AND COMBINED REACTIVE AND PROACTIVE AGGRESSIVE BEHAVIORS By GARY RICHARD MATLOFF A DISSERTATION PRESENTED TO THE GRADUATE SCHOOL OF THE UNIVERISITY OF FLORIDA IN PARTIAL FULFILLMENT OF THE REQUIREMENTS FOR THE DEGREE OF DOCTOR OF PHILOSOPHY UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA 2001

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ACKNOWLEDGMENTS I would like to thank my doctoral committee for their support and assistance throughout the completion of this dissertation. I especially thank my committee chair, Dr. Thomas Oakland, for his guidance throughout my doctoral studies. His seemingly effortless competence in his work has been an inspiration. Drs. Tina Smith, Stephen Smith, and Patricia Ashton also were helpful and each made unique contributions in the preparation of my dissertation and development as a doctoral-level professional. Very special thanks are bestowed to the public school board's administration and teachers for their support and participation in the study. This study's research could not have been possible without them. In addition, the tireless work ethic, intelligence, and humanity of Mrs. Denise Adams will continue to be a constant source of inspiration to me. Miguel Padilla and Brad Moulder also deserve my appreciation for their assistance with my data analysis. Most of all I would like to express my gratitude to my parents, family, and friends for their unrelenting support throughout my graduate studies. ii

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Lastly, special thoughts are bestowed on Jared, Greg, and the other children with aggressive behavioral problems, with whom I have had the privilege to work. The hopefulness many of these children contain, in spite of the magnitude of their emotional problems, has been the consistent source of inspiration in my work toward negating risk factors and fostering their greater social and adaptive functioning. ill

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TABLE OF CONTENTS ACKNOWLEDGMENTS ii LIST OF TABLES . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . vi ABS TRACT .............................................. Vl.11 CHAPTERS ONE INTRODUCTION 1 Statement of the Problem.................... 3 Purpose of the Study ........................ 6 Procedures . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 7 Hypothesis I . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 9 Hypothesis II . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 10 Hypothesis III .............................. 11 Hypothesis IV . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 11 Hypothesis V . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 12 Hypothesis VI . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 13 Limitations of the Study ................... 14 Definition of Key Terms .................... 17 TWO REVIEW OF RELATED LITERATURE ................ 19 Disruptive Behavioral Disorders in Children Who Are Aggressive ........................ 20 The Socialization of Aggression ............. 24 Distinguishing Reactive from Proactive Aggression . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 32 Theoretical Perspectives Pertaining to Reactive and Proactive Aggression ......... 35 Developmental Trends . . . . . . . . . . . 45 Aggression and Social Competence ............ 52 iv

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THREE FOUR FIVE ME THO DO LOGY . . . . . 6 6 Participants . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 66 Instrum.entation . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 69 Procedures . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 90 Data Analysis Procedures .................... 92 RESULTS . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 95 Aggression Type and Peer Rejection Rates .... 95 Aggression Type and Perceived Social Cornpe t ence . . . . . . . . . . . . . 9 8 Relationships Between Peer Rejection Rates and Teacher Judgments of Social Competence . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 101 DISCUSSION 103 Discussion of the Results ................... 105 Limitations ................................. 111 Implications and Concluding Remarks ......... 117 REFERENCES . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 121 BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 138 V

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LIST OF TABLES Table 1 Subtypes of Aggressive Behavior in Humans Related to Distinguishing Reactive and Proactive Aggression .................... 36 2 Reformulated Social Information-Processing Model of Children's Social Adjustment ..... 41 3 Distribution of Participating Teachers across the District's Elementary Schools by Grade Group . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 67 4 Distribution of the Reactive Aggression Student Sample across the District's Elementary Schools by Grade Group and Gender . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 68 5 Distribution of the Reactive and Proactive Aggression Student Sample across the District's Elementary Schools by Grade Group and Gender ......................... 68 6 Means and Standard Deviations for the Initial Reactive and Proactive Aggression Questions By Total and Grade Group ................. 75 7 Means and Standard Deviations of Aggression 8 Scores for the Reactive and Combined Reactive and Proactive Aggression Groups by Grade Group . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 7 5 Summary ANOVA Table for Peer Rejection 97 9 Peer Rejection Rates as a Function of Aggression Type and Grade Level ........... 98 10 Summary ANOVA Table for Teachers' Perceptions Of Social Competence . . . . . . . . . . . 100 vi

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11 Teachers' Perceptions of Social Competence as a Function of Aggression Type and Grade Level . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 100 12 Correlations Between Peer Rejection Rates and Teachers' Perceptions of Social Comp etence . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 102 vii

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Abstract Dissertation Presented to the Graduate School of the University of Florida in Partial Fulfillment of the Requirements for the Degree of Doctor of Philosophy PEER REJECTION RATES AND PERCEIVED SOCIAL COMPETENCE AMONG ELEMENTARY-SCHOOL CHILDREN WHO DISPLAY REACTIVE AND COMBINED REACTIVE AND PROACTIVE AGGRESSIVE BEHAVIORS By Gary Richard Matloff August 2001 Chairman: Thomas D. Oakland, Ph.D. Major Department: Educational Psychology This study investigated relationships among aggression type (i.e., predominantly reactive versus combined reactive and proactive types of aggression), teacher perceived social competence, and peer rejection rates among elementary-school children (i.e., grades K-5). Its goal was to utilize two sources of information (i.e., teachers and peers) to gain a more comprehensive understanding of relationships between children's display of aggressive behavior and social perceptions of teachers and peers. Teachers initially provided ratings of reactive and proactive aggression of 796 elementary school students in grades kindergarten through 5. From these data, 191 elementary school students were identified as displaying viii

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predominantly reactive or both reactive and proactive types of aggression. However, students who demonstrated solely proactive types of aggression were not included because of concerns that the criterion for inclusion in the proactive aggression group was too low. Teachers also rated children's social competence. Peer nomination data from the students in the classroom provided information on the children's social status. Results indicated that peer rejection rates were comparable across three elementary-school grade groups (i.e., K-1, ~-3, and 4-5} regardless of whether children demonstrated predominantly reactive or combined reactive and proactive aggressive behaviors. Results also indicated that teachers' perceptions of social competence of aggressive children did not differ between aggressive children who displayed only reactive behaviors and those who displayed both reactive and proactive behaviors. However, among children who demonstrated both reactive and proactive behaviors, social competence for those in grades K-1 was rated higher than for those in grades 2-3. Lastly, relationships between peer rejection rates and teacher judgments of social competence were nonsignificant for both groups of aggressive children.

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CHAPTER ONE INTRODUCTION Jared's school behavior problems have increased steadily over the years. On-going behavior management techniques have been used in an attempt to curtail his physical aggression toward peers in response to his feeling constantly provoked by them. He is defensive and mistrustful of others' intentions and is angered easily, even by seemingly innocuous situations. However, anyone who comes into prolonged contact with Jared is touched by his genuine inner goodness. He is described frequently as compassionate, affectionate, generous, and kind-hearted. Greg has had on-going severe problems with aggression in school for several years, including vandalism, stealing, and bullying. His teacher describes him as having angry, impulsive, and defiant attitudes toward authority figures and is combative toward peers. Through modeling and positive reinforcement Greg has learned over the years that behaving aggressively results in obtaining such goals as acquiring objects and dominating peers. However, in spite of his aggressive demeanor, a social and emotional assessment revealed that Greg desires positive peer 1

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relations and is capable of regret and remorse for his wrongdoings. Both boys are third-grade students who have an extensive history of aggressive behavioral problems. Their lack of social skills prevents them from inhibiting aggressive behavior in favor of prosocial behavior. Their parents, extended family members, teachers, counselors, and peers all fear the serious consequences that can result from their aggressive behavior (e.g., physical harm, emotional trauma, property destruction). They also share concerns that the boys' future will be bleak if they continue to behave aggressively as they grow older. However, the similarities end there. Each boy's behavioral problems are attributed to a different type of aggression: the first has solely reactive and the second has both reactive and proactive types of aggression. Reactive aggression is defined by skill deficiencies (e.g., lack of self-control) that prompt aggressive behavior when feeling provoked. Proactive aggression is defined as relying on aggressive behavior to achieve maladaptive goals. An objective of this research is to increase our understanding of relationships between the social skills 2

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and social status of children who display these different forms of aggression. Statement of the Problem This study examines relationships between teachers' perceptions of two types of children's aggressive behaviors, teacher judgments of social competence, and peer judgments of social status among elementary school pupils. Theory and data suggest that social factors influencing children's behaviors, including their aggressive behaviors, may forecast more chronic maladaptive behavioral disorders, such as antisocial personality disorders (Kauffman, 1999; Shinn, Ramsey, Walker, Steiber, & O'Neill, 1987). Knowledge of relationships between teachers' perceptions of different types of aggressive behavior in children and their social competence and social status may enhance our understanding of elementary-school children who are at-risk for future misbehavior and violence (Bierman, Smoot, & Aumiller, 1993). Previous studies support the validity of distinguishing between reactive and proactive aggression (Dodge & Coie, 1987; Smithmyer, Hubbard, & Simons, 2000). These two forms of aggression represent different social response styles. Reactive aggression is an overt act of 3

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anger that is displayed in response to provocation and biases toward attributing hostile intent to others (Dodge & Coie, 1987; Dodge et al., 1990). In contrast, proactive aggression is an instrumental, covert act of anger that is intentional and purposeful regarding outcome expectancies (Dodge & Coie, 1987). Social information-processing theory may help explain how different mental processes influence reactive and proactive aggressive behavior (Crick & Dodge, 1996; Dodge & Schwartz, 1997). In general, how a child interprets a provocative social cue subsequently influences whether the child will respond with aggressive behavior (Dodge & Schwartz, 1997). Perceiving hostile intent on the part of another child will often evoke reactive aggression in the child prone to aggression. In contrast, evaluating (i.e., during the later stages of information-processing) an expected outcome to a particular social situation often evokes proactive behaviors in a child prone to respond aggressively. Studies are lacking that have investigated the social status of children who behave aggressively across the elementary school years. Furthermore, research on children's social development is lacking in comparing relationships between the display of different types of 4

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aggressive behavior and standardized measures of social competence. Studies have linked elementary-school children's age and their respective evaluations of others' reactive and proactive aggressive behaviors (Crick & Dodge, 1994; Crick & Dodge, 1996; Dodge & Coie, 1987). Older children evaluate aggression more negatively than do younger children (Crick & Dodge, 1996; Dodge & Coie, 1987). Children's evaluations of aggressive behavior are related to developmental differences in their processing of information (Crick & Dodge, 1994). For example, peers may become increasingly hostile toward children who tend to respond with reactive aggression because they expect that these children will behave aggressively in social situations (Crick & Dodge, 1996). Children who respond with proactive aggression are motivated by instrumental goals (e.g., lying, cheating, stealing, bullying) and are more subject to risk of peer rejection as they become older and the importance of relational goals increases (Price & Dodge, 1989). Although previous studies (Crick & Dodge, 1996; Price & Dodge, 1989) focused on restricted age ranges (i.e., ages 9-12 and 5-6), the current study examined relationships between children's aggression type and teachers' s

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perceptions of their social competence and peer ratings of their social status across a broader age range (i.e., K-5 grades). Previous studies also have relied on a single source of measurement (i.e., from teachers or from peers) to identify social behaviors of children who behave aggressively (Coie & Dodge, 1988). However, the current study used both teachers and peers to judge social behaviors of elementary school children with different types of aggressive behavior within the social context of the classroom. Relationships between reactive and proactive aggression and social factors may be understood better by having information from teachers and peers than from one of these sources (Bierman et al., 1993). The availability of these two sources of information allows us to gain a broader understanding of the relationships between different types of aggressive behavior in children and teachers' perceptions of their social competence and peers' ratings of their social status. Purpose of the Study This study examined two perceived social characteristics of elementary school children who behave aggressively. The social status (i.e., peer rejection rates) of children who displayed reactive aggressive 6

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behavior problems and those who displayed both reactive and proactive aggressive behavior problems were expected to be related to their negative behaviors. The aggressive behaviors of these children also were expected to be related to teachers' perceptions of their social skills (i.e., specific strategies that they used to carry out or r~spond to social tasks that make up social competence). As children who behave aggressively become older, peer rejection rates stabilize and the likelihood of their behaving prosocially decreases (Pettit, Bakshi, Dodge, & Coie, 1990). They also increasingly drift toward associating with other deviant peers (Geen, 1998a). This study attempted to clarify relationships between aggressive behavior types and teachers' perceptions of social competence and peer rejection rates for children who are at-risk of developing serious antisocial behavioral patterns. Procedures Dodge and Coie (1987) devised a teacher-rating instrument to distinguish reactive and proactive aggressive behavior subtypes in children. Forty-seven teachers (in 47 regular education classes) in grades Kindergarten through 5 in this study completed the rating scale. Their information 7

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was used to distinguish children who engaged in reactive aggression from those who engaged in both reactive and proactive aggression. The Walker-McConnell Scale of Social Competence and School Adjustment (1995), also a teacher-rating instrument, was used to measure children's social skills. The focus of the social-behavioral competencies measured were teacher and peer-related forms of social competence and general school adjustment. Teachers rated the social competence of their students. Peer nominations provide reliable and valid assessments of childhood aggression by those in a key position to make such observations (Huesmann, Eron, Guerra, & Crawshaw, 1994; Johnston, Pelham, Crawford, & Atkins, 1988). Social status classification data were used to assess peer acceptance or rejection of children who behave aggressively. Elementary-school children were asked to nominate three peers with whom they preferred to play (peer acceptance) and three with whom they did not (peer rejection). Social status assessments of all the children displaying aggression in the classrooms were available for analysis. Peer nomination data were subsequently evaluated 8

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to determine the extent to which peers rejected children identified as aggressive. Hypothesis 1 Among elementary school children in grades K-5, children who are reactively aggressive were expected to have higher peer rejection rates than children whose behavior is composed of both reactive and proactive types. Children who are reactively aggressive believe that others' negative actions are a result of hostile intent (Crick & Dodge, 1996). Because of this expectation, children who display only reactive aggressive behaviors are expected to be less able to control their own impulsive reactions (e.g., physical aggression) than children who display proactive aggressive behaviors. Such overt forms of aggressive behavior are evident more immediately and are expected to induce peer rejection more readily. Children whose aggressiveness comprises both reactive and proactive types are expected to demonstrate more functional social skills because of their greater ability to behave in a goal-oriented fashion rather than solely as a reactor (Dodge & Coie, 1987). 9

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Hypothesis 2 Peer rejection rates of children who are reactively aggressive were not expected to differ across the three grade groups (i.e., K-1, 2-3, and 4 5). 10 Reactive aggressive problems typically are evident in children prior to their beginning elementary school (Farver, 1996). Children with reactive aggressive behaviors are generally deficient in detecting others' intentions (Dodge & Somberg, 1987). They also tend to exhibit behaviors that are regarded negatively by peers, including impulsivity, low frustration tolerance, and strong negative affective responses. The combination of cognitive and social deficits may lead to a greater incidence of peer rejection for children with reactive aggressive behavior problems (Lechman & Dodge, 1994). Negative perceptions of peers toward those who display reactive aggression tend to remain stable across grade levels (Coie, Terry, Lenox, Lechman, & Hyman, 1995). Awareness that children with reactive aggressive behaviors across the elementary school years are at a high risk of rejection by their peers may further explain differences in social competence as a function of their style of aggressive behavior (i.e., children who display both reactive and proactive aggressive

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11 behaviors in contrast to children who display only reactive aggressive behaviors). Hypothesis 3 Peer rejection rates of children who are both reactively and proactively aggressive were not expected to differ across the three grade groups (i.e., K-1, 2-3, and 4-5) Peer-rejected children who exhibit reactive aggressive behavior difficulties have problems resulting from their social deficits (e.g., in encoding and interpretation of cues) and lack of self-control (Dodge & Schwartz, 1997). However, because they are more able to inhibit impulsive aggression, peer rejection may not be as prevalent among elementary-school students displaying both reactive and proactive aggressive behavior. The relationship between age across the elementary school years of children who tend to display a combination of reactive and proactive behavior and their social status has not been investigated. Hypothesis 4 Children who are both reactively and proactively aggressive were expected to be perceived by their teacher as having higher social competence than children who are predominantly reactively aggressive.

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12 Teachers may tend to regard children in the elementary-school grades who display both reactive and proactive aggression less negatively than children who only display reactive aggression. Students with reactive aggressive behavior problems have difficulty meeting their teacher's social demands in the classroom (e.g., conformity to classroom rules, academic focus and effort, positive peer relations), because of their tendency to react impulsively. Consequently, teachers may judge children who are reactively aggressive as lacking in socially competent behavior (Walker & McConnell, 1995). Children who display socially competent behavior demonstrate the ability to inhibit expressions of aggressive behavior (Geen, 1998b). Therefore, teachers may perceive children who restrain from displaying aggressive behavior as more socially competent to meet classroom demands. Children who display reactive and proactive aggressive behavior may be more likely to inhibit impulsive aggression and consequently appear to be more socially competent by their teacher. Hypothesis 5 The social competence for elementary school children who are both reactively and proactively aggressive was

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expected to be perceived as being lower in grades 4-5 than in grades K-1 and 2-3 by their teachers. As children mature they learn to differentiate more clearly when aggression is justified (Pettit, Bakshi, Dodge, & Coie, 1994). Older peer groups regard proactive aggression more negatively because they can more easily identify behaviors lacking in prosocial value (e.g., bullying is more likely to be perceived as a negative aspect of one's assertiveness) (Bierman, Smoot, & Aumiller, 1993). Peers and teachers alike are likely to appraise social deficits more negatively in later than in earlier elementary school grades (Crick & Dodge, 1996). Hypothesis 6 13 The relationships between peer rejection and teacher judgments of social competence were expected to be nonsignificant among children who display both reactive and proactive aggression and significant among children who display predominantly reactive aggression for each of the three grade groups (i.e., K-1, 2-3, and 4-5). Teachers generally are reliable reporters of student behavior (Dodge & Coie, 1987). Teachers typically are in a position to note deviant behavior because they have day-to day interactions with their students and both a normative

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14 basis for evaluating behavior and knowledge of contextual conditions that may influence behaviors. Children also have clear ideas about students who should be avoided because of their continual displays of deviant behavior (e.g., reactive aggression). However, the behavior of children who display both reactive and proactive aggression may appear to be less deviant to younger peers than to students in the later elementary school grades. Thus, early elementary school children may reject children who display both reactive and proactive aggressive types less frequently than older children may. Children who display reactive and proactive aggression also may display socially competent behavior that diminishes the rejection typically experienced by children who are only reactively aggressive. Children who display reactive and proactive aggression may appear to be more socially adept to their peers during the early elementary years. Limitations of the Study This study examined possible relationships among teachers' perceptions of the social competence and peer rejection rates of children who displayed different types of aggressive behavior. Experimental conditions (e.g., attempts to improve the development of appropriate social

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skills and negate the expression of aggressive behavior) were not studied. Therefore, no causal conclusions are possible from this study. The study is limited to statements of relationships among variables. Limited resources associated with this study required the use of a cross-sectional rather than a longitudinal design. The ability to detect changes as they occur in participants throughout the developmental span (e.g., elementary school) would be preferred. However, the relationships among teachers' perceptions of social competence, peer rejection, and the reactive and combined reactive and proactive groups were expected to vary across the three different grade groups (i.e., grades K-1, grades 2-3, and grades 4-5). The study also was limited to examining an elementary school population. Data on adolescent students at the middle and high school levels were not collected. Thus, information from kindergarten through grade 12 will not be provided in this study. Measures of students' type and level of aggression as well as social competence are based on teacher perceptions. Therefore, the question of teacher bias needs to be addressed. Research suggests that teachers are able to 15

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16 distinguish different behaviors among their students reliably (Kamphaus, 1995). For example, teacher ratings of proactive and reactive aggression were significantly related to indices of proactive and reactive aggression based on direct observation in free-play interactions (Day, Bream, & Pal, 1992). However, the possibility of teacher bias in the data obtained in this study cannot be dismissed. For example, data were collected during the last 2 months of the school year. Teachers, who have struggled with the management of constant behavioral problems throughout the school year, may have been inclined to judge certain students with behavioral problems more harshly regardless of whether there was evidence of an increase in their behavioral problems. Furthermore, teachers' ratings of students' aggression may have influenced their ratings of the students' social competence. Finally, this study is primarily concerned with overt forms of reactive and proactive aggression because of the focus of the Reactive and Proactive Aggression Teacher Rating Scale (Dodge & Coie, 1987). Brown, Atkins, Osborne, & Milnamow (1996) criticized Dodge and Coie's measure of proactive aggression because the items assessing proactive aggression only reflect overt-hostile aggression, whereas

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17 proactive aggression is theoretically related to both covert-instrumental and overt-hostile aggression. However, Brown et al. (1996) found that instrumental-proactive and hostile-proactive aggression items loaded on one factor, thus negating the apparent weaknesses in the instrument's measurement of proactive aggression. However, the authors still are in the beginning stages of their research in the use of a different type of scale that distinguishes among two different types of proactive aggression. For the purposes of the current study and discussed further in the methods section, a predominantly proactive aggressive group of students was not studied because of concerns that the criterion for inclusion into the group was too low. Definition of Key Terms Reactive aggression refers to an aggressor's retaliation in response to feeling provoked and subsequently threatened by perceptions of another's hostile intent. Proactive aggression is the purposeful, premeditated, and goal-oriented behavior that results from the aggressor's anticipation of benefits from his or her behavior.

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Social competence refers to the demonstration of social behaviors that are judged appropriate for the situation. Social skills are the specific strategies (i.e., cooperation, assertion, responsibility, empathy, and self control) that are used to carry out or respond to social tasks. Prosocial behavior refers to social behavior that is helpful in promoting positive peer interactions and relationships. Peer-preferred social behavior is peer-related social behavior that is highly valued by peers. Teacher-preferred social behavior is peer-related social behavior that is highly valued by teachers. Social relational goals are objectives related to the achievement of positive peer relationships through the practice of prosocial behaviors. 18

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CHAPTER TWO REVIEW OF RELATED LITERATURE Peer rejection and social isolation are frequent consequences of a child's aggressive behavior. Recent extreme acts of school violence and the public's desire to know the psychological profiles of nonaggressive and aggressive students point to a need to identify cognitive and social factors contributing to aggression. Research on children's social competence typically has focused on varying levels of peer acceptance among children who are aggressive and nonaggressive and the cognitive processes the children use when responding to social situations (Erdley, 1996). The following literature review will discuss the roles of cognitive processes and social influences on children's aggressive behavior. The following intends to (a) link relevant behavioral disorders with children who display pervasive aggression, (b) review critically the relationship between reactive and proactive types of childhood aggression and peer rejection, (c) distinguish between reactive and proactive forms of aggressive behavior, (d) present relevant theory, most notably social information-processing theory, that promotes 19

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20 an understanding of social influences on reactive and proactive aggression, (e) highlight developmental perspectives associated with the escalation and maintenance of childhood aggression, and (f) explain social competence as it relates to the study of aggression. Disruptive Behavioral Disorders in Children Who Are Aggressive Aggressive behavior consistently is identified as a prominent component of, or comorbid with, childhood disruptive behavior disorders, including conduct disorder (CD) and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). Although almost all children exhibit some form of aggression, indicators of psychopathology focus on behaviors that become exceptionally severe, constant, and chronic (Lechman, White, & Wayland, 1991), and occur at inappropriate times (Patterson, 1975). Aggressive, socially maladaptive behavior patterns in young children frequently are cited as risk factors for more pervasive problems in later childhood, adolescence, and adulthood (Coie, Dodge, & Kupersmidt, 1990; Fraser, 1996; Hughes, Cavell, & Grossman, 1997) Aggression and Conduct Disorder Conduct disorder is one of the most prevalent and intractable mental health problems of childhood and

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21 adolescence. It commonly begins in early to middle childhood in the milder form of oppositional defiant disorder (Bierman et al., 1992). Conduct disorder, in turn, often precedes a diagnosis of Antisocial Personality disorder in young adults (Hughes, Cavell, & Grossman, 1997). The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 4 th Edition (DSM IV) (American Psychiatric Association, 1994) defines conduct disorder as 'repetitive and persistent engagement in maladaptive behavioral patterns, in which the basic rights of others or ma-jor age appropriate societal norms or rules are violated." Behavioral problems associated with conduct disorders may include aggressive behavior toward others (e.g., bullies, threatens, or intimidates others), property '., destruction (e.g., fire setting), deceitfulness (e.g., lying) or theft, and serious violations of rules (e.g., running away from home at least twice). According to the DSM-IV, the type of conduct disorder depends on the age of onset: 1) childhood-onset type is determined if onset of behavior occurs prior to 10 years of age and 2) adolescent onset type is determined if there is an absence of behavior prior to 10 years of age.

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22 Children diagnosed with a conduct disorder typically display aggressive behavior. However, a diagnosis of conduct disorder often is made without considering the heterogeneity of a child's aggressive behaviors that influence maladaptive behavioral patterns (Dodge, 1990). There is an increasing trend to address the severity of aggressive behavior in young children and their development of chronic behavioral disorders. For example, developmental differences in the characteristic nature of the presenting conduct problems are demonstrated by early (i.e., childhood-onset type) and late (i.e., adolescent-onset type) onset patterns for a conduct disorder (American Psychiatric Association, 1994). Distinguishing early from late onset of conduct pisorders can be useful in determining the level of severity of aggression (Loeber & Stouthamer-Loeber, 1998). Aggression and Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is another behavioral disorder commonly associated with children who exhibit problems with aggression. ADHD is the most common behavioral disorder in children (Johnson, 1997). ADHD typically is diagnosed using criteria established in the DSM-IV (American Psychiatric

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Association, 1994). The disorder is observed first during preschool and elementary grades (Loeber, Green, Lahey, Christ, & Frick, 1992). The incidence of behavioral problems associated with ADHD increases in first grade and remains fairly stable thereafter (Pellegrini & Horvat, 1995). Behavioral problems associated with ADHD include persistent difficulties with attention (e.g., difficulty concentrating, organizing, day dreaming, inadequate schoolwork), hyperactivity (e.g., fidgety, noisy, easily over-excited), and impulsivity (e.g., acting without particular regard for consequences to one's behavior). According to the DSM-IV, the symptom pattern of 23 ADHD must have appeared before 7 years of age, and the impairment must be observed in at least two settings (e.g., school and home). The DSM-IV outlines three ADHD subtypes: predominantly inattention type, predominantly hyperactive impulsive type, and a combined type. The latter two subtypes are most common in children with aggressive behaviors. Among children who are aggressive, a high rate of peer rejection exists for those displaying ADHD-related behaviors (Milich & Landau, 1982; Pelham & Bender, 1982).

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For example, children with aggressive and ADHD behaviors typically exhibit difficulties following instructions and following rules (e.g., when playing team sports). ADHD related behaviors that cause peer rejection can develop into more serious conduct disorder pathology as the child becomes older (Hinshaw, Lahey, & Hart, 1993). An overlapping subgroup of children with both conduct disorders and ADHD displays a more destructive form of psychopathology than do children with either single diagnosis category (Hinshaw & Anderson, 1996). Their physical aggression is more intense and their antisocial behavior more persistent. Overt forms of aggression associated with children with ADHD are related to research linking acting-out behavior to peer rejection (Erhardt & Hinshaw, 1994). The Socialization of Aggression 24 Aggression occurs as a result of a combined biological and psychological response to an aversive situation involving conflict with other people (Geen, 1998b). The existence of both overt (e.g., physical attacks) and covert (e.g., stealing, property destruction) forms of aggressive behavior is noted in such diagnostic categories as oppositional defiant disorder, conduct disorder, and

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2S antisocial personality disorder (Hinshaw et al., 1997); Aggression is only one symptomatic pattern of a disruptive behavior disorder that typically also includes deficits in other core capacities (e.g., social interaction, cognitive functioning, self-control, and emotion regulation) (Bierman et al., 1996). The present study concentrates on social influences (e.g., an individual's social competence and social status) of aggression that are thought to be related to children's expression of aggressive behavior. Aggression in the Schools By the fifth grade, key school behaviors (e.g., fighting, bullying, stealing, vandalism) are found in conduct disordered children who may be at-risk for adopting an antisocial lifestyle (Shinn, Ramsey, Walker, Steiber, & O'Neill, 1987). In addition, disruptive behaviors of children with conduct disorders consistently undermine educational efforts of teachers and pose threats to other children's physical safety. The school system also is affected negatively by high costs for special~zed educational services and/or placements (Bierman et al., 1992). Children and adolescents with externalizing (e.g., aggressive) behavioral problems comprise the majority of

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students who receive specialized educational services for disruptive youth (Cartledge & Talber~-Johnson, 1996). 26 A specific risk factor for later aggression and deviancy exists when behavioral difficulties occur in more than one setting, thereby suggesting the perseverance of an enduring trait (Dubow & Reid, 1994). Children who exhibit aggressive behavior in their home and community typically generalize these behaviors to the school. Given their complicated emotional and behavioral problems, integrating children with conduct-disorders into a regular education environment presents one of the greatest challenges for inclusive classrooms (Cartledge & Talbert-Johnson, 1996). Considering the social demands of school settings (e.g., expectations for academic success, conformity to social rules, and positive peer relations), any comprehensive theory of conduct disorder must consider multiple factors, including the potential for distinct subtypes of conduct disorder (e.g., skills-deficient versus community value-based conduct disorder) (Dodge, 1993). The most effective treatment is likely to be determined by those qualities that need the greatest attention (e.g., social skills training for interpersonal deficits). Treatment can be facilitated by more refined diagnostic

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practices based on an increased understanding of the different types of aggressive behavior. Aggression and Maladaptive Social Outcomes 27 Individuals differ widely in their display of aggressive behavior. Social influences are important in understanding different behavioral tendencies (Dodge, 1991). Two types of aggression are distinguished by the different social goals (Baron & Richardson, 1994): a) affective (i.e., angry) aggression, in which the main motive of the aggressor is to harm the victim, and b) instrumental (i.e., predatory) aggression, which includes other motives (e.g., personal gratification) besides inflicting harm itself (Geen, 1998a). Regardless of the type, aggressive behavior is highly visible and encourages the formation of an unfavorable social image for children who behave aggressively (Coie & Koeppl, 1990). Subsequent peer rejection of aggressive behavior places these children at risk for socially maladaptive outcomes, including dropping out of school, engaging in delinquent activities, and suffering from mental health problems (Kupersmidt, Coie, & Dodge, 1990). Relationships between children's aggressive behavior and subsequent difficulties with peer relations have been

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28 demonstrated empirically. For example~ peer rejection increases the probability of more entrenched deviant (e.g., antisocial) behavioral patterns in later childhood, adolescence, and adulthood (Coie & Kupersmidt, 1983; Dodge, Coie, Pettit, & Price, 1990). Research has shown that aggression in conduct-disordered behavior patterns may develop over time, as well as result in the decrease in social competence. As they become older, children's social circles widen from interactions exclusively within the family to include those with teachers and peers. Constant exposure to a peer culture is an important developmental step toward establishing social networks and peer group status (French & Underwood, 1996). In addition to individual characteristics (e.g., aggression, inadequate self-control, impulsivity) and parental behaviors (e.g., inconsistent and/or harsh disciplinary practices, insufficient supervision), the child's broader social context becomes a crucial determinant for the possible emergence, manifestation, maintenance, and generalization of a conduct disorder (Coie & Jacobs, 1993). Aggressive behaviors have adverse social consequences for children in school. Simply, children who behave

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29 aggressively typically become disliked and~ctively rejected by their peers (Erdley, 1996) Older children who are aggressive and have adopted antisocial maladaptive behavior patterns are ultimately left with few social settings that provide any form of reinforcement (Coie & Jacobs, 1993). Later conduct disorders do not emerge solely from an intrapersonal process within a child (Bierman et al., 1996). Rather, negative interpersonal processes influence the development of serious behavioral disorders and emerge partly as a result of engaging in aggressive and maladaptive behavior patterns. Further, peers who exhibit deviant behavior begin to drift together and encourage each other's existing antisocial tendencies through modeling and shaping new forms of problematic behavior (Coie & Jacobs, 1993). Conduct disordered behavior can be reduced and improvements in adaptive outcomes can be attained by addressing multiple socialization contexts (e.g., home and school) and skill domains (e.g., social and cognitive) (Bierman et al., 1996). The effectiveness of intervention also is broadened by attending to interaction patterns among all members of the child's social fields (e.g., family, school, and peer group) (Bierman et al., 1992).

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Without intervention, children with conduct disorders are likely to become trapped in a vicious cycle of negative interactions with peers in their social circle (Coie & Jacobs, 1993). Social Competence Promotes Adaptive Behavior 30 Children who are aggressive typically are characterized in school as being deficient in appropriate social skills. These children are rejected by their peers not only because of their aggressive acts themselves, but also because they lack knowledge of appropriate social goals, ability to translate cognitive representations of social goals into skillful behavior, and ability to monitor and interpret the effects of their behavior within the social environment (Ladd & Mize, 1983). Social competence in children is closely related to their learning how to inhibit expressions of aggression (Geen, 1998b). Recent research characterizes social competence as a set of social behaviors that are defined as individual, discrete, observable acts that make up a social skill (Rutherford, Chipman, DiGangi, & Anderson, 1992). In defining social competence, Walker and McConnell (1995) subscribe to a functional or performance-based view of social skills. Children are characterized as using specific /

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31 strategies to carry out or respond to social tasks. Within this framework, others (e.g., teachers) judge social competence in children on the adequacy of their performance on a given social task. Social competence in the form of prosocial behavior (e.g., ability and willingness to help, share, and cooperate with others) is critical to children's school adjustment (Wentzel, 1996). Three important goals are achieved by displaying appropriate social skills: a) initiating and developing positive social relationships with others, b) facilitating the ability to cope effectively with the behavioral demands and expectations within specific settings, and c) providing for the appropriate communication and assertion of one's needs, desires, and preferences (Walker, Schwartz, Nippold, Irvin, & Noell, 1994). When successfully negotiated, the behavioral demands within teacher controlled instructional settings and social demands within peer controlled free play settings result in positive socialization experiences for children in school (Walker et al., 1994). Relationships with peers provide interpersonal experiences for children that can promote the development of socially competent behavior and may not be available through their relationships with parents (Wentzel, 1996).

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32 As children become older, the peer network becomes increasingly influential in defining their identity and sense of belonging. However, children tend to select peers who do not demand the use of behaviors nonexistent or weak in their behavioral repertoire (Dishian, Patterson, Stoolmiller, & Skinner, 1991). The central idea is that children seek social settings that provide the maximum level of social reinforcement for the minimum social energy (Dishian et al., 1991). For example, peer-rejected children who are seen as being socially incompetent by others search for peers more tolerant of and likely to encourage their maladaptive behavioral patterns. Children who are aggressive lack socially competent behavioral skills and develop relationships with other deviant peers to gain the social acceptance that others have failed to provide. Distinguishing Reactive from Proactive Aggression For purposes of this study, aggression may be defined as behavior aimed deliberately towards inflicting damage to people or property (Vitiello & Stoff, 1997). Previous research combined various forms of aggression into one global category, and all types of aggression were considered equally associated with social rejection (Price

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& Dodge, 1989). However, different subtypes of aggression are distinguishable. Attempts to distinguish qualities in children described as aggressive by their peers are important, in part, because aggression consistently is the most reported and notable feature in rejected children (Coie & Koeppl, 1990). In turn, some forms of aggressive behavior may be related to social rejection more strongly than others (Price & Dodge, 1989). Children whose aggressive behavior is affective and an overt act of anger (e.g., reactive aggression) may be viewed differently than children whose aggressive behavior is instrumental and a covert act of anger (e.g., proactive aggression). This study considers reactive aggression as distinct from aggression that includes both reactive and proactive types. According to negative reinforcement principles, the purpose of reactive aggressive behavior is to eliminate a perceived threat when the subject is angered or aroused. Children who react aggressively often display such retaliation in response to feeling provoked and threatened by perceptions of another's hostile intent (Dodge & Coie, 1987). Reactive aggression typically is displayed through 33

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hostile facial gestures, impulsive acts, and a strong, negative affective response (Boivin, Dodge, & Coie, 1995). In contrast to reactive forms of aggression, the purpose of proactive forms of aggression (Dodge et al., 1990) is to dominate another and/or achieve an instrumental, goal-oriented outcome when not provoked. According to positive reinforcement principles, proactive aggression (e.g., coercion, bullying, stealing, and vandalism) is a more premeditated form of aggressive behavior that occurs as a result of anticipated benefits for the aggressor. The organized, premeditated initiation / of aggressive behavior in proactive aggression 34 distinguishes it from the hostile defensiveness in reactive aggression (Dodge & Coie, 1987). Two types of behavioral aggression are found in reactive and proactive aggression (Vitiello & Stoff, 1997): (a) the affective (reactive) subtype involves an activation of the defensive (i.e., fight-or-flight) response with a high level of physiological arousal in reaction to a perceived threat while (b) the predatory (proactive) subtype involves a minimal level of physiological arousal and is offensive as a function of the aggressor's goal in securing an anticipated positive reward. Subtypes of human

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35 aggression include impulsive forms that often are accompanied by affective instability (e.g., affective subtype or reactive aggression) and nonimpulsive forms that are goal-oriented and more directly related to antisocial behavioral tendencies (e.g., predatory subtype, proactive aggression). Vitiello and Stoff (1997) categorized six similar sets of aggression subtypes: hostile and instrumental, overt and covert, defensive and offensive, affective and predatory, impulsive and controlled, and reactive and proactive. Different mental processes underlying each of the distinct types (i.e., reactive and / proactive aggression) characterize the multidimensional nature of aggression (Dodge & Schwartz, 1997). Theoretical Perspectives Pertaining to Reactive and Proactive Aggression Various theories underlie reactive and proactive subtypes of aggression. Frustration-aggression theory is relevant in understanding reactive aggression (e.g., the goal of aggression is to defend oneself or inflict harm on the source of frustration), and social-learning theory is relevant in understanding proactive aggression (e.g., the goal of aggression is to engage in instrumental behaviors that are controlled by external rewards) (Dodge, 1991). The two theories of aggression are superior to earlier

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Table 1 Subtypes of Aggressive Behavior in Humans Related to Distinguishing Reactive and Proactive Aggression A. Hostile (aimed at causing damage to the victim) vs. Instrumental (aimed at attaining other rewards) Aggression; B. Overt (open defiance through arguing, fighting, and Tantrums) vs. Covert (sneaky manipulation through stealing, Truancy, and firesetting) aggression; C. Defensive (self protection against a threat) vs. Offensive (attacking, causing wrongdoing) aggression; D. Affective (uncontrolled, impulsive, and unplanned behavior) vs. Predatqry (controlled, goal-oriented, planned, and Hidden behavior) aggression; E. Impulsive (related with children who display Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder-ADHD) vs. Controlled (related to those children without a diagnosis of ADHD) aggression. theories, such as those that emphasized innate, biological variables being solely responsible for aggressive behavior by acknowledging the instigative and incentive aspects of aggressive motivation. Frustration-Aggression Theory According to the frustration-aggression theory, aggression is a hostile, angry reaction to frustration 36

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37 (Berkowitz, 1963; Dollard, Doob, Miller, Mowrer, & Sears, 1939). Dodge's (1980) hostile attribution theory is related to and enhances the frustration-aggression theory (Dodge & Coie, 1987). Social-cognitive deficits and biases result in a tendency to over-attribute hostile intentions in an ambiguous situation. Children who behave aggressively are I impaired in their ability to cognitively integrate information about others' intentions at the time of the action (i.e., cue-utilization deficiency) into their behavior. This impairment renders their social performance most vulnerable under threatening conditions (Dodge & Samberg, 1987) and in ambiguous situations (Dodge, 1980). Interpretations of hostile intention in a target's behavior subsequently influence irrat'ional thought processes (i.e., fear). Reactive aggression serves as a defense that is primarily motivated by fear (Pulkkinen, 1996). Dodge and Crick's (1990) identification of the social cognitive bases of aggression helps explain how cognitive processes influence the expression of reactive aggression. Skillful cognitive processing leads to competent social behavior, whereas deficient cognitive processing leads to maladaptive (e.g., aggressive) behavior set in motion by certain environmental cues (e.g., provocation, perceived or

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real) (Baron & Richardson, 1994). Social cognition processes involve cognitive scripts that are stored in memory and used as guides for future behavior and social problem solving (Eron, 1994). 38 Reactive forms of aggressive behavior are the result of inadequate social-cognitive skills. Social cognition processes are less coherent among aggressive boys who display reactive behavior, and cognitive, affective, and physiological processes are hypothesized to influence attributions of hostile intent (Dodge & Somberg, 1987). Attributions of hostile intentions of ambiguous social cues by children demonstrating reactive aggressive behavior has been demonstrated (Steinberg & Dodge, 1983) and suggests support for the hostile attribution theory. Social Learning Theory According to Bandura's (1973) social learning theory (Crick & Dodge, 1996), proactive aggression, in contrast to reactive aggression, is goal directed (Dodge & Coie, 1987) and controlled by external reinforcements (Dodge, 1991). The anticipated specific positive outcome resulting from aggression is central to proactive aggression and typically counters the socially unacceptable value of aggressive behavior (Dodge & Coie, 1987). Children who behave with

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proactive aggression learn to act in anticipation of such likely outcomes as tangible rewards (e.g., object acquisition as a result of stealing), peer group approval (e.g., bullying behavior mistaken for leadership qualities), and reduction of aversive consequences (e.g., getting out of a dreaded chore). 39 Children who display proactive aggressive behavior distort others' intentions (cue distortion) relative to their own expectation of negative intentions (Dodge, 1980). Although thought to be capable of accurately perceiving others' intentions, children demonstrating proactive aggressive behavior have a limited and biased response repertoire and evaluate the outcomes of behaving aggressively in positive ways (Dodge, 1991). Thus, the prognos is of these children to change and become less aggressive is low because generally they are reinforced by their aggressive behavior (Day et al., 1992). Social Information-Processing Theory Social information-processing theory helps explain the function of both reactive and proactive aggression. Mental processes in social behavior include perception and problem-solving together with the emotional features associated with one's goals, motivational state, and

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40 arousal regulation (Dodge, 1993). For children who behave reactively aggressive, social information is cued by a provocative interpersonal exchange. 'Any bias (e.g., hostile) in a situation can affect the cognitive construction of the exchange and the response made to it (Geen, 1998b). Social information-processing theory helps explain relationships between a social cue (e.g., perceived or real provocation) and a child's aggressive behavioral response (Dodge & Schwartz, 1997). For children who behave proactively aggressive, social situations are represented internally and interpreted, and behavioral responses are generated as a direct reflection of their mental processing (Dodge & Schwartz, 1997). As a result of receiving reinforcement for their aggressive behavior, the continuity of information-processing remains and new information within the social environment is acknowledged. Crick and Dodge (1994) reformulated Dodge's (1986) initial proposal of social information-processing to include six processing steps. Each is characterized by a specific mental operation or set of operations: (a) encoding social cues into short-term memory, (b) interpreting social cues so that a meaningful abstraction of the encoded situation is generated, (c) classifying and selecting goals (e.g.,

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Table 2 Reformulated Social Information-Processing Model of Children's Social Adjustment Step a: Encoding of both external and internal cues; Step b: Interpretation of cues: Causal attributions Intent attributions Other interpretive processes (goal attainment evaluations, past performance evaluations, self-evaluations, and other-evaluations); Step c: Clarification of goals (e.g., desired outcome) that are revised so that new goals are constructed in response to immediate social stimuli; Step d: Responses accessed from memory or construction of new behaviors in response to immediate social cues; Step e: Response decision: Evaluating outcomes expected from using each response (outcome expectations) the degree of confidence there is in one's ability to enact each response (self efficacy) evaluating the appropriateness of each response (response evaluation); Step f: Enactment of the chosen behavior. instrumental or interpersonal) for the encoded situation, (d) accessing and constructing responses to formulated goals that children search for previously learned social behaviors (e.g., aggression) in their long-term memory store, (e) evaluating the probable outcome(s) of their responses, and (f) enacting the chosen behavioral (e.g., 41

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aggressive) strategy resulting in the culmination of the five sequential stages. 42 Socially competent behavior results from skillful and sequential processing at each step of the social information-processing model described above {Dodge et al., 1987, Crick & Dodge, 1994). Children who behave aggressively perceive, interpret, and make decisions about social stimuli in maladaptive ways in each of the social information-processing steps {Dodge & Crick, 1990; Dodge & Price, 1994) The likelihood of their engaging in aggressive acts subsequently increases {Dodge & Samberg, 1987). Children who behave reactively aggressive experience problems during the early stages of social information processing and generally display biases when selectively attending to and recalling threatening social cues {Dodge & Frame, 1982). In contrast to nonaggressive boys, aggressive boys who display reactive behavior are more inaccurate in interpreting their peers' intentions as hostile when they are not {Dodge & Coie, 1987). These children experience problems with hypervigilance to hostile cues, hostile attributions, and unwarranted fear responses {Dodge, 1991) that cause them to retaliate aggressively when feeling provoked (Dodge, Lechman, Harnish, & Pettit, 1997).

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43 Because reactive forms of aggressive behavior are contingent on perceiving a situation as threatening, social cognitive mechanisms initially involve deficits in encoding and interpretation of cues (Dodge & Schwartz, 1997). In a reactive response to a provocation, related information first is encoded through sensory reception and perception followed by a response search resulting in accessing and enacting aggressive behavioral responses from long-term memory (Dodge, 1991). Thus, the pattern of social-cognitive difficulties can range from initial perceptions of social cues and subsequent problem-soiving skills to later outcome expectations and self-perceptions (Lochman & Dodge, 1994). When feeling threatened, previous negative reinforcement influences the intensity of children's motivation to inflict harm in reactive aggressive episodes which may escalate in spite of the target's submission (Coie, Dodge, Terry, & Wright, 1991). Increased skills in self-control can negate hostility associated with reactive aggression that is fueled by frustration and/or perceived provocation (Coie & Koeppl, 1990). Social information-processing theory also uses reinforcement principles to help explain the development and maintenance of proactive forms of aggressive behavior

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44 in children. Decreased flexibility in the social cognitive styles of children who are aggressive is related to the latter steps of the reformulated social information processing model (Rubin, Bream, & Rose-Krasner, 1991). Children's proactive aggressive behavior is a response to their learned reinforcement patterns and suggests their aggressive behavior will result in an expected response (e.g., a peer's submission or material gain). For example, characteristic of the fQurth step of the reformulated social information-processing model, children who display proactive aggression search for previously-learned social behaviors (e.g., both overt and covert forms of aggression) in their long term memory because of their past success with these behaviors. These students are more likely to suggest bribe or manipulation strategies and less likely to offer prosocial strategies (Rubin, Moller, & Emptage, 1987) Positive evaluations of the likely consequences of aggressive behavior, also evident in later steps of the reformulated model, are associated with proactive instrumental aggression (Dodge et al., 1997; Dodge & Schwartz, 1997). Although typically characterized as displaying ineffective, irrelevant, and hostile behaviors

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(Dodge, Pettit, Mcclaskey, & Brown, 1986), children who behave proactively aggressive are less capable of recognizing these behaviors as maladaptive because of distorted perceptions caused by their reinforcement history. Social information-processing difficulties in these children vary depending on their particular social goals and their history of reinforcement for aggressive behavior (Rubin, Moller, & Emptage, 1987). Developmental Trends 45 Research is needed to identify and describe relationships and causal processes that may account for differences in the developmental pathways aggression follows, leading to peer rejection (Bierman & Wargo, 1995). Children who behave reactively aggressive generally are thought to have an earlier history of peer rejection than do children who behave proactively aggressive. Case studies have revealed children who display reactive aggressive behavior generally begin exhibiting their problematic behavior at 4 years of age, 2 years earlier than children with proactive forms of aggressive behavior (Dodge et al., 1997). The verbally and physically disruptive behaviors exhibited by children who display reactively aggressive behavior may lead to their rejection at initially higher

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rates than those who display instrumental aggression and/or bullying (Bierman, Smoot, & Aumiller, 1993). Developmental Aspects of Reactive Aggression Age-differentiated cross-sectional and longitudinal studies with children who are aggressive are needed because developmental trends in children's social cognition suggest that the nature of aggression may change with age (Lechman & Dodge, 1994). Aggression, especially overt physical aggression, occurs more commonly among younger than older children (Pettit, Bakshi, Dodge, & Coie, 1990). Among younger children, reactive aggression may be more accepted because they lack other forms of coping and such behavior represents self-defense mechanisms (Coie et al., 1991). Children in the early elementary school grades also are reluctant to directly confront children who are aggressive for fear of retaliation (Coie et al., 1995). As changes in social cognition occur in older children, peer relations become further complicated. The context in which aggression occurs increasingly differentiates whether a response will be accepted (Pettit et al., 1990). Reactive aggression is socially less acceptable among older children because they are better able to distinguish between hostile behavior that is and is

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~ not justified (Coie ~t al., 1991). As children increase in age and cognitive maturity, they are more likely to evaluate aggression negatively (Crick & Dodge, 1996; Coie et al., 1991), to become mistrustful of children who are aggressive (Dodge, 1989), and to react aggressively in response to their own attributions of hostile intent in aggressive peers (Dodge, 1980). 47 Aggressive boys are rejected by peers because of their physically aggressive, argumentative, disruptive, imperceptive, and less prosocial behaviors (Bierman, Smoot, & Aumiller, 1993). For example, reactive children are more likely to escalate the levels of their aggressive behavior during an initially hostile interaction rather than stop, even after the peer has stopped responding (Coie et al., 1991). Children who have been rejected frequently because of their aggressive behavior respond less competently in social situations than they are capable of because of their expectations of rejection, rather than lack of social skills (Rabiner & Coie, 1989). However, when led to expect that unfamiliar peers will like them, some of the rejected (3 rd grade) boys still were not able to refrain from problematic behavior (e.g., fighting) upon initial engagement with their peers. Children who are aggressive ,,

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react with hostility regardless of what others may expect of them. For example, when in relatively new social situations, children who behave reactively aggressive respond with a hostile-attribution bias even though peers do not have any preconceptions about them (Coie et al., 1991) 48 As children with reactive aggressive behavior problems become older and increasingly experience rejection by their peers, their behavior may intensify and further alienate them from the normative peer group. These children subsequently develop a pessimistic anticipation of being disliked and experience further rejection by their peers (Rabiner & Coie, 1989). A self-fulfilling prophecy becomes established in that maladaptive social information processing patterns within these children become entrenched and escalate over time, thus increasing peers' hostility toward them (Crick & Dodge, 1996; Younger & Piccinin, 1989). In general, rejected children who behave aggressively justify their use of continued aggression as they become increasingly aware of the negative consequences of their behavior (Dodge, 1980). However, studies indicate that children who are aggressive are more likely to have long term problems with peer rejection when displaying

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reactive rather than proactive aggression (Volling, MacKinnon-Lewis, Rabiner, & Baradaran, 1993). 49 It was thought that more extensive interventions (e.g., social skills training) were necessary to increase the repertoire and use of prosocial behaviors when children displaying reactive aggressive behavior interact with unfamiliar peers. Evidence suggests that older children who continue to display aggressive behavior pay a high social price for any immediate, short-term personal benefits derived from their behavior because of peer rejection and later involvement with deviant peer groups (Coie et al., 1991). Reactive forms of children's aggressive behavior and a decrease in social competence may increase the risk for peer rejection at an early age. Developmental Aspects of Instrumental and Relational Forms of Proactive Aggression Children who behave proactively aggressive evaluate aggressive acts positively as a means of obtaining instrumental goals (e.g., covert antisocial acts such as stealing another child's eraser). In contrast to findings about reactive aggression, instrumental forms of proactive aggression appear more positively related to classroom peer status by young children (Price & Dodge, 1989). The researchers speculate that such ~object-oriente~

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50 aggression might be perceived as assertive behavior associated with leadership and is more acceptable in young children than overt, reactive forms of aggressive behavior. Furthermore, older children generally preferred goals invested in social relations to goals invested in personal gratification (Crick & Dodge, 1996). Older children who engage in instrumental aggression (e.g., stealing the \ eraser for the sake of material gain) experience more peer rejection than do younger children who also engaged in instrumental aggression (Coie et al., 1991). Relational forms of proactive aggression are associated with social maladjustment and can appear in children's behavioral repertoires at relatively young ages (e.g., 3to 5year-olds) (Crick, Casas, & Mosher, 1997). Although both boys and girls display relational forms of aggression, differences often exist in their expression. Overt acts of relational aggression (e.g., hitting, shoving, and verbal and physical intimidation), characterized by physical harm against or dominance over others, are likely to be instrumental in peer rejection and later social maladjustment in boys (Coie & Kupersmidt, 1983; Crick, 1996; Dodge, 1983). Socialized aggression, characterized by inflicting damage towards another's self

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51 esteem, social status, or both (Crick, 1997; Galen & Underwood, 1997), hinders the affiliative, intimacy goals typical in girls (Crick et al., 1997). Purposeful manipulative behavior in girls' peer groups (e.g., social exclusiorr and verbal aggression) results in subsequent peer rejection that is relatively stable over time and predictive of girls' future social maladjustment (Crick, 1996; Crick & Bigbee, 1998). Although nonphysical forms of relational aggression in girls differ from physical forms of relational aggression in boys, the same negative social outcomes occur (e.g., peer rejection) (Rys & Bear, 1997). Using relational aggression in an attempt to manipulate or control relationships with others, instead, destroys intimacy and trust (e.g., using social exclusion or rumor-spreading as forms of social exclusion, threatening to withdraw acceptance or friendship as a way to control others) (Crick, 1997). Thus, fewer reciprocal friendships are likely to result, and developmental differences appear because older children place more importance on relational aspects of friendship (Rys & Bear, 1997). In contrast to results in one study with 3 rd grade boys, 4 th and 5 th grade peer-rejected girls in another study by the same

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52 researchers behaved more socially competent in their increased social participation when they were led to expect social success with unfamiliar peers (Rabiner & Coie, 1989). Aggression and Social Competence Increased understanding, modification, and prevention of aggression depends on further research about social competence and its relationship to the development and operation of prosocial behavior (Dumas et al., 1994). Attempts to investigate measurable changes in the social competence of children who behave aggressively are relevant to understanding the maintenance and/or escalation of different forms of aggression. Clear identification of differences in social competence of children who are aggressive may increase the relevance of diagnostic information (Dodge, 1987). Children who are aggressive and subject to peer rejection are at subsequent risk for serious forms of antisocial behavior disorders and are an increasing focus of developmental and clinical research (Coie et al., 1995). Social Skills as Distinguished from Social Competence A general set of behaviors may lead to peer acceptance of children across all age groups (Coie et al., 1990).

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53 These include being helpful, friendly, interactive, and following rules. An ability to develop socially competent relationships with peers is regarded as one of the most important developmental tasks of childhood (Hartup, 1989; Richards & Dodge, 1982) as well as protection against later behavioral and/or emotional disorders (Volling et al., 1993). McFall (1982) demonstrated the existence of relationships between social skills and social competence. Social skills were defined as the strategies and tactics used to negotiate daily social tasks. Social competence was characterized as a summative judgment social agents (e.g., peers, teachers, and parents) make about the overall effectiveness of one's social behavior. Effective social interactions are influenced strongly by social problem-solving processing identified in the social information-processing literature. The problem solving model of Rubin et al. (1991) includes three levels in assessing a child's social skills. At the level of individual acts, the relative distribution of social goals and targets and the child's perception and understanding of task relevant information (e.g., the child who behaves reactively aggressive tends to attribute situations with a hostile intent and view another's action as a willful

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intent to cause harm) is assessed. At the level of social effects, the social outcome (e.g., peer rejection for aggressive behavior) of the child's as well as others' judgments of the child's strategic choices are assessed. Lastly, at the level of behavioral sequences, the child's responses to failure (e.g., escalating aggressive behavior or isolation from the normative peer group) are assessed. Peers who regard a child's social skills as ineffective in specific situations are likely to judge the child socially incompetent. Findings from longitudinal and cross-sectional studies have established the key role social skills play in determining children's socially adaptive behavior (Walker, Irvin, Noell, & Singer, 1992). Problem behaviors contribute to the isolation from the normative peer group of children who are aggressive and hasten their aggregation into antisocial peer groups (Kupersmidt, Burchinal, & Patterson, 1995). Examination of relationships between aggression and peer social status is instrumental in understanding risk factors associated with maladaptive behavior patterns (Day et al., 1992). The delineation of risk factors associated with the manifestation and maintenance of aggressive behavior is 54 .

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55 further enhanced by examining social competence in children (Volling et al., 1993). Relationships Between Peer Rejection and Social Competence in Children Who Are Aggressive Acceptance and rejection are universal behaviors that reflect the feelings of a peer group toward a particular child (Bagwell, Newcomb, & Bukowski, 1998). Prosocial behavior is associated more positively with peer status than maladaptive behavior (e.g., aggression). It is not accepted because it deviates from the norm (Boivin et al., 1995). Chronic rejection by one's peers contributes to escalating social difficulties among children who are aggressive and increases their risk of developing a serious conduct disorder in adolescence and an antisocial personality disorder in adulthood (Dumas, Neese, Prinz, & Blechman, 1996). Aggressive boys and girls tend to adopt a pervasive pattern of social maladjustment when rejected by their peers (Kupersmidt & Patterson, 1991). Hostile peer relations and antisocial behaviors are logical contr i buting factors to the development of maladaptive behavior patterns in children who behave aggressively. Children rejec t ed by their peers and significant adults (e.g., parents, teachers) typically do not benefit from opportunities to

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56 learn appropriate prosocial behavior and redeem themselves from their negative behavior (Ialong, Vaden-Kiernan, & Kellam, 1998; Mize & Ladd, 1990). Furthermore, compared to children who are nonaggressive, children who are aggressive generally are unaware of the extent of their rejection by peers (Zakriski & Coie, 1996). These children are unmotivated to change their maladaptive behavior patterns and may over-estimate their social competence rather than be amenable to benefiting from social skills' interventions. Early in elementary school, aggressive and peer rejected children were found to be three times more likely to have inadequate social adjustments by the end of their first year of middle school than children who were neither aggressive nor rejected (Coie et al., 1992). The persistence of aggression throughout childhood is likely to drive these children to associate with deviant peer groups for acceptance and reinforcement of their behavior. Identifying factors related to early social difficulties and subsequent maladjustment contributes to understanding how aggressive behavior increases the risk of peer rejection (Hymel, Rubin, Rowden, & LeMare, 1990; Kupersmidt & Co i e, 19 9 0)

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57 Maintaining a positive social status seems to become increasingly complex in older children because of a greater emphasis on displaying prosocial behavior (e.g., sharing, problem-solving, good sportsmanship) among peers (Coie et al., 1990). Furthermore, the impact of aggression on social relations becomes increasingly complex in older children because of expanding differences in what may constitute an aggressive act. The frequency of physical aggression and the diversity of acts expand to other types of negative behaviors (e.g., verbal aggression and classroom disruptions) (Coie et al., 1990). For example, ineffective communication patterns of children who behave reactively aggressive inhibit cooperative interpersonal exchanges (Dumas et al., 1994). Opportunities for engaging in cooperative social exchanges, effective conflict management, and intimate interaction with other children increasingly are restricted for older children who behave reactively aggressive (Cillessen, Ijzendoorn, & van Lieshout, 1992). These children also are unable to generate as many effective solutions to conflict as are children who are nonaggressive. Such problem-solving skills still may be regarded as competent, yet limited because of offering only one solution (Richards & Dodge, 1982).

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58 Coping-Competence Model An understanding of the development of serious antisocial behavior disorders (e.g., conduct disorders) in children with reactive aggressive behavior problems who lack social competence is facilitated by the skills illustrated in the coping-competence model (Blechman & Culhane, 1993). The coping-competence model postulates that an increased repertoire of prosocial behaviors reduces reliance on maladaptive coping skills (e.g., antisocial and aggressive strategies) (Dumas et al., 1994). According to the coping-competence model, four processes hinder the development of social competence. First, prosocial coping skills, favorable social reputation, and high self-esteem across the early and middle childhood years positively influence the development of children's social competence. However, socialization risks are increased in older children who are reactively aggressive because they more frequently experience affective (e.g., aroused anger caused by a perceived provocation), social (e.g., unsuccessful initial peer entry), and achievement (e.g., low tolerance for frustration when attempting an academic task) challenges.

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59 Second, prosocial coping strategies (e.g., information exchange, anger management, and problem solving) result in nonviolent resolutions, remorse for wrongdoings, and compassion and empathy for others. These strategies typically are absent in children with reactive aggressive behavior problems. Third, supportive social relationships with significant others (e.g., family, peers, and teachers) reinforce prosocial coping skills. However, children who behave reactively aggressive have not learned how to regulate their affect, generalize an early history of negative (e.g., coercive) adult relationships to the school setting, and do not establish positive peer relationships or gain academic success. Fourth, children's prosocial coping skills foster strong attachment bonds with significant adult figures. These adults are influential in fostering adaptive socialization skills in children. The fourth process in the coping competence model also is relevant to proactive aggression. Children who behave proactively aggressive seek interpersonal dominance and control rather than the maintenance of social relationships. These children frequently lack emotional

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attachments with significant adults and behave in maladaptive ways that increasingly result in adults' disapproval. In such instances, social skills of children with proactive aggressive behavior problems are maladaptive and invested in personal gratification rather than mutual relational goals. However, relationships between peer rejection and covert forms of antisocial behavior in children who display proactive forms of aggression are not well researched or understood (Hinshaw, Zupan, Simmel, Nigg, & Melnick, 1997). Increased aggression in peer-rejected children is attributed to their lack of social survival skills (Patterson, Reid, & Dishion, 1992). These skills are rooted in the demand-compliance transactions between children and their parents and teachers that result in coercive behavior patterns and frequently associated with proactive aggression (Ialongo et al., 1998). According to social learning theory, the aggressor is reinforced for their coercive behavior when clear expectations of prosocial behavior are inconsistently reinforced by significant adults (Hinshaw et al., 1997). For example, children who behave proactively aggressive will engage in coercive behavior (e : g., verbal intimidation) until they gain

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negative reinforcement (e.g., the withdrawal of the teacher's demand). Such coercive interactions with significant adults may encourage maladaptive social skills for these children. Conflict with Normative Peer Group Standards 61 Peers have an implicit understanding of the behavioral norms expected of children within a group context from an early age and they are sensitive to the implications of violations to these norms (Coie et al., 1990). Children, including those who are aggressive, can also successfully estimate the negative aspects contributing to the weakened social status for peer-rejected children (Zakriski & Coie, 1996). However, peer-rejected boys were found to be self absorbed and socially insensitive, persisting in aggression when social norms lead most other boys, including non rejected aggressive boys, to stop (Coie et al., 1995). In particular, peers evaluate rejected, aggressive boys who display reactive behavior problems in uniformly negative ways as opposed to more mixed ways for aggressive boys who display proactive behavior problems (Dodge, 1991). Among children who are aggressive, lack of socially competent performances (e.g., with initial peer group entry and maladaptlve responses to provocative situations)

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62 increases difficulties in achieving positive social interactions (Walker et al., 1992; Dodge, Mcclaskey, & Feldman, 1985). The lack of social skills in children who behave reactively aggressive (e.g., a cue-utilization deficit influencing one to encode cues in the environment as hostile when they are not, such as an accidental bump by a peer) hinders their ability to establish and maintain peer acceptance. Peer rejection prevents opportunities to acquire socially competent skills that are dependent on being further refined through interactions with other children (Coie & Cillessen, 1993). Children who behave reactively aggressive are most likely to have difficulty with the ability to respond prosocially (i.e., cue utilization deficits) and, in turn, cause peer rejection (Volling et al., 1993). Rejected children also tend to display aggression at more inappropriate times causing their peers to more actively dislike them (Spetter, La Greca, Hogan, & Vaughn, 1992). Peer-rejected boys initially approach others more often than boys who eventually become popular, yet their social approaches tend to be relatively short and lead to peer rejection because of inappropriate behavior (Dodge, 1983). Furth~rmore, social initiations by children who

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behave reactively aggressive are characterized by inappropriate timing (e.g., disrupting a peer during quiet classwork time) (Dodge, Coie, & Brakke, 1982). 63 Bierman and Wargo (1995) suggest two possibilities to explain the persistence of peer ~ejection of children who behave aggressively in school. First, these children may lack corrective feedback from their peers. Without learning cues to modify their behavior, the severity of aggressive behavior escalates throughout childhood. When these children are unable to adjust their maladaptive behavioral responses, problems related to their aggression may subsequently promote the development of more severe conduct problems. Second, early social learning factors (e.g., punitive disciplinary practices and coercive parental interactions) help to explain how aggressive and conduct problems in children generalize to the school setting (Patterson, 1982). These children may subsequently be ostracized and subjected to negative socializing peer influences. Children who are aggressive then are drawn to other socially maladaptive peers in an attempt to gain social acceptance for their behavior.

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Social competence, as assessed in children with reactive aggressive behavior problems, is an important variable because aggressive behaviors are dependent on the social context (Dodge et al., 1985). An interpersonal exchange begins with a set of social cues. Unsuccessful entry into a peer group and maladaptive responses to peer provocations exemplify socialization difficulties among children who behave reactively aggressive. In contrast, children with proactive aggressive behavior problems who are not rejected for their behavior still may display important prosocial skills (e.g., competent leadership skills) that compensate for their aggressive behavior (Coie & Cillessen, 1993). Research on the relationship between the differences in the display of aggressive behavior and judgments of social competence is needed. In conclusion, the current study comprehensively investigates relationships that may exist between aggressive behavior and children's social status and social competence in the elementary school grades. Previous research is lacking in the investigation of social qualities in children who display different types of aggressive behavior that incorporates possible differences across all of the elementary-school grades. Furthermore,

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65 studies that incorporate different perspectives (e.g., teachers and classroom peers) of distinctions in type of aggressive behavior in children are lacking. The current study seeks to increase our understanding of relationships that may precede the development of more serious behavioral disorders in elementary-school children who display constant difficulties with aggression.

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CHAPTER THREE METHODOLOGY Participants Participants were drawn from a pool of 1,950 elementary school students enrolled in grades kindergarten through 5. The school district is located in a north central rural area of Florida with predominantly Caucasian (78%), African-American (20%), and Asian and Hispanic (2%) families from lower-to middle-class backgrounds. According to the school district's Data Book Profile, 13% of the district's population lives below the poverty level, which compares to 12% across the state and 13% nationwide. More specific information pertaining to the percentage of ethnic backgrounds and socioeconomic status for each of the district's five elementary schools was not available. All of the teachers from the district's five elementary schools were invited to participate. Of the 88 classroom teachers asked to participate in this study, 47 (53%) agreed (Table 3) The teachers provided data on the aggressive behaviors of 796 (42%) elementary school students, from which a sample was drawn for this study of 191 elementary school 66

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Table 3 Distribution of Participating Teachers Across the District's Elementary Schools by Grade Group Grades K-1 2-3 4-5 1 1 2 2 Total & % 5/6 of Teachers 83% who Participated 2 Elementary Schools 3 3 1 0 4/9 44% 5 4 2 11/15 74% 4 3 3 3 9/28 32% 5 5 6 7 18/30 60% 67 students in grades kindergarten through 5 identified as displaying reactive or both reactive and proactive aggression by their teachers (Table 4 and 5). Although not collected for the purposes of this study, information regarding the ethnic background of the students, as well as the ethnic distribution for each of the elementary schools could have enhanced the study's external validity regarding the extent that findings can be generalized beyond the district's primarily Caucasian population (i.e., 78%).

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68 Table 4 Distribution of the Reactive Aggression Student Sample Across the District's Elementary Schools by Grade Group and Gender Grades K-1 2-3 4-5 Table 5 M 1 7 2 1 F 0 2 1 M 2 1 0 2 Elementary Schools F 1 0 0 M 2 6 0 3 F 1 1 0 M 3 1 0 4 F 0 0 1 M 4 6 5 5 F 2 2 1 Distribution of the Reactive and Proactive Aggression Student Sample Across the District's Elementary Schools by Grade Group and Gender Grades K-1 2-3 4-5 M 1 5 6 1 F 0 3 2 M 4 3 6 2 Elementary Schools F 0 0 1 M 7 10 10 3 F 6 1 3 M 7 3 3 4 F 2 0 0 M 9 15 11 5 F 9 7 5

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69 Instrumentation Reactive and Proactive Aggression Teacher-Rating Scale A model to distinguish reactive from proactive forms of childhood aggression has been formulated that are based on teacher ratings (Dodge & Coie, 1987). Reactive and proa9tive aggressive subtypes present distinct patterns of behavior despite being substantially similar (e.g., both aggression subtypes concern overt types of behaviors) (Poulin & Boivin, 2000). Teachers complete a scale that includes six statements describing two types of aggressive behavior: reactive and proactive. A Likert scale ranging from 1 (never true) to 5 (always true) accompanies these statements. In an attempt to disguise the scale's primary intent (i.e., to identify deviant aggression), the items used to identify aggressive children are embedded randomly among 20 additional statements for a total of 26 statements that desciibe social and academic behaviors. Reactive aggression is represented in three statements: ~when this child has been teased or threatened, he/she gets angry easily and strikes back," 'this child always claims that other children are to blame in a fight and feels they started the trouble," and 'when a peer accidentally hurts this child (i.e., by bumping into

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70 him/her), this child assumes the peer meant to do it, then overreacts with anger/fighting." Proactive aggression also is represented in three statements: 'This child gets other children to gang up on a peer that he/she does not like," 'this child uses physical force (or threatens to use force) in order to dominate other kids," and 'this child threatens or bullies others in order to get his/her own way." The internal consistency of ratings of reactive and proactive aggressive behaviors is high, with coefficient alphas of .90 for the reactive aggression items and .91 for the proactive aggression items (Dodge & Coie, 1987) The authors indicated that only modest support was obtained for the distinction between reactive and proactive types of aggressive tendencies in children. The median interscale item correlation is .60, and the correlation between the two scale scores is .76. However, the authors reported that while the two scales correlate strongly with each other, and although the within-scale item correlations are higher than the between-scale item correlations, such a pattern supports the construct validities of the two aggression subtypes, according to Campbell and Fiske's (1959) multitrait, multimethod approach.

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71 Dodge and Coie (1987) examined concurrent (criterion related) validity by contrasting four groups of socially rejected 1 st grade and 3 rd grade boys: those who fit criteria as displaying reactive but not proactive aggression, those who displayed proactive but not reactive aggression, those who displayed both reactive and proactive aggression, and those who were rejected but displayed neither reactive nor proactive aggression. Their findings provided preliminary support for the separate behavioral profiles of boys displaying reactive versus proactive aggression. For example, five of eight between-group analyses yielded significant main effects. Predictably, children in the reactive and proactive aggressive groups, all of whom were highly rejected by their peers, received ratings that indicated significantly higher degrees of aggressive behavioral problems than those who were nonaggressive and were not rejected by their peers. Furthermore, peer ratings reliably differentiated behavioral differences between aggressive peers with reactive and proactive behavior problems. Aggressive children who behaved proactively received higher scores on leadership, displaying a good sense of humor, and being bothersome to their peers, while

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aggressive children who behaved reactively mainly were viewed as being bothersome to their peers. 72 The constructs of reactive and proactive aggression differed significantly on three peer-nomination measures (Dodge & Coie, 1987). Construct validity was found in the application of the multitrait-multimethod approach of Campbell and Fiske (1959). The finding of significant correlations between similar traits across different methods provides evidence of convergent validity. For example, a teacher-rated measure of reactive aggression was positively related to trained adults' direct observation of reactive aggressive behavior in children's play. Proactive aggression also was positively related to the direct observation of proactive aggressive behavior in children's play. The pattern of correlation between teacher ratings and more direct observations of reactive and proactive aggression provide~ modest evidence of discriminant validity. The factor analysis of items from the scale loaded on the two factors concerning reactive and proactive aggression in the predicted manner. However, the intrascale correlations were judged to be higher than the interscale

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correlations based on their absolute magnitude rather than on the results of the statistical test. 73 In their study, Dodge and Coie (1987) split the children at the median on each of the reactive and proactive aggression scale scores to identify four subgroups: reactively aggressive, proactively aggressive, both reactively and proactively aggressive, and nonaggressive. The median for the reactive aggression scale was 9.2, and the median for the proactive aggression scale was 6.6. From a total of 339 boys rated by their teachers, 80 boys were identified as pervasively rejected by their peers and subsequently class ified as follows: 14% were classified reactively aggressive, 9% were classified proactively aggressive, 49% were classified reactively and proactively aggressive, and 29% were classified nonaggressive. In Dodge and Coie's (1987) study, the reactive and proactive aggression scale scores both ranged from 3 to 15 and were calculated as the sum of the three items. Each of the items on the scale had a minimum score of 1 and maximum score of 5, using a Likert scale. The combined reactive and proactive aggression scale scores were composed of all six aggression items and ranged from 6 to 30 and were

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74 calculated as the sum of the three items from the reactive scale and the three items from the proactive scale. Table 6 contains the means and standard deviations for the initial reactive and proactive aggression scales by total sample and grade group for the current study. Aggression scores were based on the total sample rather than on each grade group to be consistent with Dodge and Coie's (1987) study. Table 7 contains the means and standard deviations for the aggression scores for each aggression group in each of the grade level groups. To be included in this study, elementary students had to demonstrate solely reactive types of aggression or both reactive and proactive types of aggression. In this study I identified aggression type on the basis of the data collected on all 796 of the children who were rated by their teachers. However, students who demonstrated solely proactive types of aggression were not included because of concerns that the criterion for inclusion in the proactive aggression group was too low (e.g., some students identified as displaying proactive aggression in this study received scores consistent with a low average incidence of these behaviors). Furthermore, because of the restricted

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75 Table 6 Means and Standard Deviations for the Initial Reactive and Proactive Aggression Questions by Total and Grade Group Total Aggression Group N M SD Reactive Aggression 796 7.3 3.7 Proactive Aggression 796 5.4 2.9 Reactive & Proactive 796 12.7 6.3 Aggression Table 7 Student Grade Groups N K-1 M SD 318 6.5 3.8 318 4.9 2.9 318 11.4 6.4 N 2-3 M SD N 4-5 M SD 290 7.6 3.6 188 8.3 3.4 290 5.3 2.8 188 6.5 3.1 290 12.9 6 0 188 14.9 6.2 Means and Standard Deviations of Aggression Scores for the Reactive and Combined Reactive and Proactive Aggression Groups by Grade Group Aggression Group Reactive Aggression Reactive & Proactive Aggression N K-1 M SD 16 12.0 1.1 45 21.8 3.6 Student Grade Groups N 2-3 M SD 26 11.9 1.1 47 22 8 2.7 N 4-5 M SD 10 11.4 0.8 47 23 !I 2.6 scope of the current study, students displaying reactive or both reactive and proactive aggression were not compared

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with students who did not display a significant amount of aggression. 76 A more stringent criterion than that used by Dodge and Coie (1987) was employed to identify the children as aggressive. Dodge and Coie's (1987) procedure of splitting the children at the median creates the possibility that students who display a low average level of aggressive behavior could be included in the study. To avoid this possiblity, scores that exceeded one standard deviation above the mean on the reactive aggression scale were used to identify children who were reactively aggressive in this study (Table 7). The mean and standard deviation for the total group on the reactive aggression scale were 7.3 and 3.7 respectively and on the proactive aggression scale were 5.4 and 2.9 respectively. Students who were included in the reactive aggression group were required to have a score of 11 or above, with 15 being the maximum score possible. Students who were included in the reactive and proactive aggression group also were required to have a proactive aggression scale score of 8 or above, with 15 being the maximum score possible. With a scale score of 9 (out of a maximum of 15) reflecting a generally average rating, students required a

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scale score of at least 10 or above to display a significant amount of reactive or proactive aggression according to the rater. With regard to concerns expressed earlier, some of the students who met the criterion for inclusion in the proactive aggression group reflected a lower than average score and indicated the amount of proactive aggression typically displayed was not significant according to the rater. In contrast, for 77 inclusion in the reactive aggression group, a score of 11 or above was required that was consistent with an above average score and indicated the amount of reactive aggression typically displayed was significant according to the rater. Thus, all of the students included in the reactive aggression group were rated as displaying a significant amount of reactive aggression. Children were included in the combined reactive and proactive aggression scale if their scores exceeded one standard deviation above the mean on both the reactive and proactive aggression scales separately. The mean and standard deviation for the combined reactive and proactive aggression scale was 12.8 and 6.3 respectively, for the total group. Of 796 children, 7% were classified reactively aggressive, 6% were classified proactively aggressive, 17%

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were classified reactively and proactively aggressive, and 70% were classified nonaggressive. Because of the more stringent inclusion criteria used, percentages of students displaying some type of aggression were lower than the percentages in Dodge and Coie's (1987) study. The Walker-McConnell Scale of Social Adjustment and School Adjustment Walker and McConnell (1995) indicated that social skills are important foundations of competent student performance across diverse behavioral domains, student populations, and school settings. The Walker-McConnell Scale of Social Adjustment and School Adjustment utilized teacher ratings to measure the two primary adjustment domains typically subsumed under the broad term of social competence: adaptive behavior and interpersonal social competence The authors described adaptive behavior as skills necessary to function in the classroom (e.g., self direction, personal responsibility, functional academic skills). Interpersonal social competence refers to skills necessary to maintain adequate social interactions and relationship~ with others (e.g., assertion, peer acceptance, communication skills). The scale consists of 43 positively-worded descriptions of social skills and yields an overall index 78

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79 of a student's social competence and school adjustment. Three subscales (i.e., teacher-preferred social behavior, peer-preferred social behavior, and school adjustment behavior) sample the adaptive behavior and interpersonal social competence domains. These three inter-related dimensions of social-behavioral competence are identified as important to a student's school success and personal effectiveness (Walker & McConnell, 1995). Examples of teacher-preferred social behavior include 'shows sympathy for others," 'responds to teasing or name calling by ignoring, changing the subject, or some other constructive means," and ,..is sensitive to the needs of others." Examples of peer-preferred social behavior include 'shares laughter with peers," 'plays or talks with peers for extended periods of time," and .... invites peers to play or share activities." Examples of descriptions of school adjustment behavior include ,..attends to assigned tasks," listens carefully to teacher instructions and directions for assignments," and .... answers or attempts to answer a question when called on by the teacher." The scale's standardization sample consisted of 1,812 elementary school students in grades K through 6, from 15 states that represented each of four United States census

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80 zones: West, North Central, Northeast, and South. Among the total sample, 49% were female and 51% were male. Student race or ethnicity represented in the sample included Caucasians (80%), African-Americans (11%), Hispanics (1%), Asians (1%), and others (7%). Participating school districts were divided into urban (45%), suburban (29%), and rural (26%) categories. Scoring of the Walker-McConnell Scale. The Walker McConnell Scale (elementary version) is scored by summing the teacher's numerical Likert ratings from ~never occurs" (rated 1) to ~frequently occurs" (rated 5) for each of the 43 items. The total raw score is obtained by adding these values for all 43 items and then converting them to a scale ,, ) score with a mean of 100 and a standard deviation of 15. The mean of the standard score distribution for the three subscales is 10 with a standard deviation of 3. Subscale raw scores are obtained by summing the numerical values that comprise each of the three scales and then converting them to standard scores. Reliability estimates. Moderate to high coefficients were obtained for the stability estimates of the Walker McConnell scale scores as reflected in test-retest ratings of teachers over a 4-week period. Correlations for the

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81 three subscales and total scale score were statistically significant (E<.05 and 2<.0l) for subscale 1, E=.85, subscale 2, E=.82, subscale 3, E=.67, and total scale score, E=.83). The stability of the peer-preferred subscale over a 3-year period was determined for 200 boys at-risk for developing antisocial behavior patterns (Hops, 1987). These correlations over 1-, 2-, and 3-year intervals were respectively: .48, .42, and .32 (E<.001). High levels of internal consistency were indicated for the total scale score and subscale scores. To estimate the internal consistency, alpha coefficients were calculated for the normative sample on the total scale (.97) and three r subscales (.96, .95, .96). Alpha coefficients exceeded .90 \ for each grade level from kindergarten through six (Walker & McConnell, 1995). Moderate degrees of inter-rater reliability (E<.05) were reported (e.g., the total scale, .64, and three subscales, .62, .64, and .52) (Walker & McConnell, 1995). The authors noted that divergent ratings of identical students are common for those with different training and experiential backgrounds (e.g., teachers versus aides or regular versus special education teachers). The authors stated that adult ratings of social-behavioral attributes

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may vary because children perform divergently in the presence of different persons, settings, and situations (Mischel, 1969). 82 Validity estimates. Content validity of the Walker McConnell scale was based on the selection of items from an initial item pool designed to measure the two social skill domains: social competence and school adjustment. Factor analysis of the initial items (~ = 134) resulted in the identification of items for the three subscales: teacher preferred social behavior, peer-preferred social behavior, and school adjustment behavior. Item validity was estimated for both the total scale and subscales using item-total correlation indices. All items included in the final form of the scale contain item-total coefficients at .30 or above. Both concurrent and predictive forms of criterion related validity are reported. Concurrent and predictive validity studies provide evidence using a broad range of criterion measures: maladaptive behavior, academic achievement, sociometric status, school discipline contacts and other records-based me~sures; parent, teacher and student reports; and direct observations of student behavior recorded in classroom and playground settings

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83 (Walker & McConnell, 1995). Pertinent to this study, negative peer nominations were found more commonly in children with conduct disorders who have low social competence than in those who have high social competence (Reid, 1990). The total score and three subscale scores from the Walker-McConnell scale correlates (.73, .68, .41, .81 respectively, at p<.001) with the Humphreys Children's Self-Control Scale (Humphreys, 1982), a measure reflecting a cognitive-behavioral conceptualization of self-control. This indicates that both scales, although appearing to measure different aspects of social competence (e.g., adaptive social behavior on the Walker-McConnell scale versus cognitive-behavioral aspects of social competence on the Humphreys), measure social competence. Four studies examined the predictive validity of the Walker-McConnell scale (Walker & McConnell, 1995). Low social competence as measured by the Walker-McConnell scale together with two other qualities (e.g., discipline referrals and negative social behaviors on the playground) correctly classified the arrest status of 80% of a fifth grade sample 5 years later (Walker, Colvin, & Ramsey, 1995). The antisocial versus at-risk status of 80 boys in the tenth grade was predicted based on a reduced set of

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items of the Walker-McConnell scale from the fifth grade. The teacher-preferred subscale, recorded on elementary students, predicted police arrest records of middle school students (Walker, Stieber, Ramsey, & O'Neill, 1993). Patterson, Crosby, and Vuchinich (1992) classified antisocial boys in the 10 th grade from teacher ratings of social skills made in the 5 th grade. 84 Finally, lower predictive validity was noted in the ratings of social competence among teenage students as measured by the Walker-McConnell peer-preferred subscale scores (at ages 11 vs. 12, 11 vs. 13, 11 vs. 14, and 11 vs. 15 years old) as noted by correlations in the low to moderate range (e.g., .61, .44, .35, .18). The following longitudinally recorded variables were: antisocial construct scores (Dishion, 1987), academic engagement (Tilly, Reschly, Flugam, & Good, 1993), and association with deviant peers (Patterson et al., 1992). Teacher ratings of social skills predicted student status on school adjustment variables across four school years. Positive intercorrelations among the three subscale scores and total scale score provide evidence of the scale's construct validity (Walker & McConnell, 1995). The authors believe that the scale differentiates social skill

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competencies that vary systematically across both settings and types of handicapping conditions (e.g., mental retardation, learning disability, conduct disorder). 85 Evidence of the scale's discriminant validity was obtained in two relevant studies. One study assessed the degree to which total scale and subscale scores differentiated students who were and were not identified as seriously emotionally disturbed (Walker & McConnell, 1995). The total scale and thr~e subscale scores were moderately successful in correctly distinguishing group membership for students in the Severely Emotionally Disturbed and non Severely Emotionally Disturbed student groups (e.g., coefficients 81, 77, 69, and 65). A second study differentiated male students, identified as being at-risk for antisocial behavior, from normal students (Walker, Shinn, O'Neill, & Ramsey, 1987). Scores from the Walker-McConnell correctly classified 98% of the students in the two groups rated in the fall and 100% of the students in the two groups rated in the spring of the same school year. Peer Nominations Understanding how children are viewed by their peers increases our understanding of their social functioning.

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86 The social status of a student may be assessed from positive and negative nomination totals (Sale & Carey, 1992). Specifically, peer nomination data may be used to assess peer acceptance and rejection. Peer nomination procedures have the advantage of providing multiple observations of the same behaviors by a number of different observers (e.g., all of the children in the given child's classroom) (Huesmann et al., 1994). Peer rejection, as found in negative peer nominations, is relatively stable across elementary grades and can help identify those who later are perceived as aggressive (as measured by the Peer Evaluation Inventory; Johnston, Pelham, Crawford, & Atkins, 1988). Children also have clear ideas about whom not to associate with, in relation to the peer-rejected social status of aggressive children (Coie et al., 1988). Sociometric measures based on peer nominations offer a reliable and valid measure of children's peer-group status (Johnson et al., 1994). Peer nomination data often are acquired by asking students to nominate up to three peers whom they ike most" and up to three peers whom they east liked" from a copy of their class roster. Four categories characterize the results of student peer nominations (Maassen, van der

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Linden, & Akkermans, 1997; Coie, Dodge, & Coppotelli, 1982). The first two concern social preference (e.g., the popular child typically receives many positive nominations : and the rejected child typically receives many negative nominations). The latter two concern social impact (e.g., the controversial child typically receives many positive and negative nominations and the neglected child typically receives neither positive nor negative nominations). The current study only distinguished 'rejected" children from 'popular'' children because few investigations have included comparisons with the 'controversial" and 'neglected" children (Coie, Dodge, & Kupersmidt, 1990). Children in the present study were asked to nominate the three children in their classroom with whom they most preferred to play and three with whom they least preferred to play. First, the children in each classroom were briefed as a group about the nature of what they were going to be asked. Second, the need for confidentiality of their answers was reviewed with the children. Third, the children were briefly asked to verbally state their nominations to the guidance counselor on an individual basis in private. Lastly, after all of the nominations were gathered the children reconvened as a group, reminders of

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88 confidentiality were given, and any lingering concerns were addressed. Scoring of peer nominations. Each student's negative and positive status is determined by either summing nominations or calculating an average rating (Johnson, Ironsmith, & Poteat, 1994). In the present study, the sums of the number of rejections for each of the children identified as aggressive (i.e., how many times a child was nominated by peers as not being liked) were used. Thus, the extent of rejection as a function of grade and style of aggression was investigated. With this approach, the data are continuous rather than dichotomous. Reliability estimates. Test-retest reliability of peer nominations has been adequate (Coie, Dodge, & Coppotelli, 1982; Denham & McKinley, 1993; Maassen et al., 1997). In contrast to preschool children, the nominations of school aged children are more reliable because of their more highly developed social skills (Denham & McKinley, 1993). A Pearson product-moment correlation of .65 was found for peer nominations taken 12 weeks apart for each student, from grade levels 3 to 5 (Coie et al., 1982). In addition, Pearson product-moment correlations above .70 also was found in peer nominations taken for multiple intervals of 8

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89 weeks or less for elementary school children (Nangle, Ellis, Christopher, & Hansen, 1993). Lastly, Coie & Dodge (1983) reported the stability of the ~rejected" students to be greater than ~neglected" students over a 12 month period. Validity estimates. The validity of the peer nomination method is based on the assumption that classmates are the individuals most affected by the social behavior of their peers (Coie & Dodge, 1983; Coie & Kupersmidt, 1983). For purposes of this current study, children who behave aggressively are thought to negatively influence their peers' overall perceptions of them. Concurrent validity of peer nominations was investigated through studies examining their correlation with other measures of social competence, including behavioral observations and teacher ratings (Goldman et al., 1980; Johnson et al., 1994). Children's sociometric status predicts adolescentand adult-adjustment problems as well as future maladaptive social outcomes (e.g., criminal acts, dropping out of school, psychopathology) (Cowen, Pederson, Babijian, Izzo, & Trost, 1973; Roff, Sells, & Golden, 1972; Ullman, 1957). A review of literature on peer rejection rates in aggressive children

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indicates that aggressive behavior and low acceptance in childhood reliably predicted undesirable developmental outcomes in adulthood (e.g., antisocial behavioral problems) (Parker & Asher, 1987). Procedures The primary purpose of this research was to determine the relationships between teachers' perceptions of the social competence and peer rejection status of children with reactive and combined reactive and proactive aggressive behavior problems. Teachers completed the Reactive and Proactive Aggression Teacher-Rating Scale (Dodge & Coie, 1996) designed to distinguish children who display either reactive or proactive aggression. The teachers also completed the Walker-McConnell Scale of Social Competence and School Adjustment (1995) in order to identify differences in the levels of social competence in the aggressive children. To reduce bias, rather than have teachers focus only on the children in their classroom with behavior problems and risk harsher judgments of behavior, teachers were instructed to complete these rating scales on all children in their classroom. Finally, peer nominations were obtained from all students in the classrooms of those teachers who cooperated with the study. Students

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specifically were asked to 'name 3 peers with whom they most preferred to play" and 'name 3 peers with whom they least liked to play." These data provided information on the extent of the aggressive students' peer acceptance and rejection. 91 The researcher received approval from the district's school board to conduct the study. The initial purpose of the data collection was to help each school identify students in need of social skills training and to more evenly distribute students identified as aggressive and rejected by peers in inclusion classes for the 1999-2000 school year. Parents were sent a letter explaining the purpose of teachers' completion of the behavioral rating forms and acquiring peer nomination data on their students. Parents were instructed to return the letter to the teacher if they did not wish the forms to be completed and their child to participate in the peer nomination data collection. Only nine letters from nine classrooms spread across four of the five elementary schools (e.g., one from school #1, none from school #2, three from school #3, two from school #4, and three from school #5) were returned. Across the grade level groups, two of the letters were returned in K-1 grade classrooms, four of the letters were

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92 returned in 2-3 grade classrooms, and three of the letters were returned in 4-5 grade classrooms. Information was not obtained on the nine students whose parents did not wish them to participate. The guidance counselors in each of the five elementary schools collected the data during the last two months of the school year. The school district made the data available to this researcher after their collection. Data Analysis Procedures Before I ~ioceeded with analysis of the data concerning peer rejection rates, I found the equal variance assumption was violated: !(5,185) = 2.68, E = .02. Therefore, the raw scores of peer rejection rates were transformed by calculating the square root of each subject's raw score in order to conform to the equal variance assumption. The equality of error variances for the data concerning peer rejection rates subsequently was attained: !(5,185) = 1.65, E = .15. A two-way ANOVA was used to determine whether there were differences in peer rejection as a function of type of aggressive behavior displayed and grade level as delineated in hypotheses 1 through 3: 1. The first hypothesis states that among elementary school children in grades K-5, children who are reactively

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aggressive were expected to have higher peer rejection rates than children whose behavior was composed of both reactive and proactive types. 93 2. The second hypothesis states that peer rejectiop rates of children who are reactively aggresstve were not expected to differ across the three grade groups (i.e., K-1, 2-3, and 4-5). 3. The third hypothesis states that peer rejection rates of children who are both reactively and proactively aggressive were not expected to differ across the three grade groups (i.e., K-1, 2-3, and 4-5). Again, before proceeding with analysis of the data concerning social competence scores, I found the equal variance assumption was violated: f(5,185) = 2.63, E = .03. Therefore, the raw scores of social competence were transformed by calculating the square root of each subject's raw score in order to conform to the equal variance assumption. The equality of error variances for the data concerning social competence subsequently was attained: f(5,185) = 2.28, P = .05. A two-way A.NOVA also was used to determine whether social competence varies as a function of type of aggressive behavior displayed and grade level as delineated in hypotheses 4 and 5:

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94 4. The fourth hypothesis states that children who are both reactively and proactively aggressive were expected to ~ be perceived by their teacher as having higher social competence than children who are predominantly reactively aggressive. 5. The fifth hypothesis states that the social competence for elementary school children who are both reactively and proactively aggressive were expected to be perceived as being lower in grades 4-5 than in grades K-1 and 2-3 by their teachers. Lastly, a Pearson product moment correlation was calculated to determine the relationship between peer rejection rates and teacher measures of social competence for the students who displayed predominantly reactive and both reactive and proactive aggressive behaviors in each grade level group as delineated in hypothesis 6: 6. The sixth hypothesis states that relationships between peer rejection and teacher judgments of social competence were expected to be nonsignificant among children who display both reactive and proactive aggression and significant among children who display predominantly reactive aggression for each of the three grade groups (i.e., K-1, 2-3, and 4-5).

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CHAPTER FOUR RESULTS This study investigated hypothesized relationships between perceived social competence and peer rejection status in Kindergarten through 5 th grade boys and girls from lower-to middle-class backgrounds who displayed reactive and combined reactive and proactive types of aggression. In addition, this study investigated comparisons of hypothesized relationships between teacher judgments of social competence and peer appraisals of peer rejection rates for children who displayed reactive and combined reactive and proactive aggressive behaviors. Unless indicated otherwise, an alpha level of .05 was used for all statistical tests. Aggression Type and Peer Rejection Rates Hypothesis 1: Among elementary school children in grades K-5, children who are reactively aggressive were expected to have higher peer rejection rates than children whose behavior is composed of both reactive and proactive types. 95

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% Hypothesis 2: Peer rejection rates of children who are reactively aggressive were not expected to differ across the three grade groups (i.e., K-1, 2-3, and 4-5). Hypothesis 3: Peer rejection rates of children who are both reactively and proactively aggressive were not expected to differ across the three grade groups (i.e., K-1, 2-3, and 4-5). A two-way ANOVA (Table 8) was used to determine whether differences existed in peer rejection rates relative to type of aggressive behavior displayed (reactive aggressive and combined reactive and proactive aggressive) and grade (K-1, 2-3, or 4~5). There was no interaction, !(2, 185) = 0.23, E = .79, no main effect for grade, F(2, 185) = 1.05, E = .35, and no main effect for aggression type, f(l, 185) = .11, E = .74. Thus, the first hypothesis that among elementary school children in grades K-1, 2-3, and 4-5, children who are reactively aggressive were expected to have higher peer rejection rates than children whose behavior is composed of both reactive and proactive types was not supported. However, the second hypothesis that peer rejection rates of children who are reactively aggressive were not expected to differ across the three grade groups (i.e., K-1, 2-3, and 4-5) was

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supported. Furthermore, the third hypothesis that peer rejection rates of children who are both reactively and proactively aggressive were not expected to differ across the three grade groups (i.e., K-1, 2-3, and 4-5) also was supported. Descriptive statistics for peer rejection as a function of grade and aggression type are displayed in Table 9. Table 8 Summary ANOVA Table for Peer Rejection Source ss df MS F Between 97 Grade (G) Aggression Type (A) G X A 1.66 0.01 0.37 2 1 2 0.83 0.01 0.18 0.79 1.05 0.11 0.23 .354 .742 .793 Error 146.82 185 *p < .05

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Table 9 Peer Rejection Rates as a Function of Aggression Type and Grade Level Total Aggression n M SD Type Reactive 52 4.6 3.7 Reactive 139 4.8 3.7 and Proactive Grades K-1 n M SD 16 4.7 4.3 45 5.0 3.1 2-3 n M SD 26 4.2 3.3 47 4.0 2.7 4-5 n M SD 10 5.3 4.0 47 5.4 4.9 Aggression Type and Perceived Social Competence Hypothesis 4: Children who are both reactively and proactively aggressive were expected to be perceived by their teacher as having higher social competence than children who are predominantly reactively aggressive. Hypothesis 5: The social competence for elementary school children who are both reactively and proactively aggressive were expected to be perceived as being lower in grades 4-5 than in grades K-1 and 2-3 by their teachers. A two-way 'ANOVA was used to determine whether differences existed in teachers' perceptions of social competence as a function of aggression type and grade 98

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(Table 10). There was no interaction, f(2, 185) = .60, E = .55, and no main effect for aggression type, f(l, 185) = 3.83, E = .05, although there was a main effect for grade, !(2, 185) = 4.02, E = .02. Descriptive statistics for social competence as a function of grade and aggression type are displayed in Table 11. 99 Children who were reactively aggressive were not perceived as displaying a significant difference in level of social competence than children who were both reactively and proactively aggressive. Thus, the fourth hypothesis that children who are both reactively and proactively aggressive were expected to be perceived by their teacher as having higher social competence than children who are predominantly reactively aggressive was not supported. Furthermore, the Tukey test indicated a significant difference on social competence only between grades K-1 vs. 2-3, !(185) = 2.40. Therefore, the fifth hypothesis that, among children with reactive and proactive aggressive types, teachers' perceptions of their social competence were expected to be lower in grades 4-5 than in grades 2-3 and K-1 was not supported.

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Table 10 Summary ANOVA Table for Teachers' Perceptions of Social Competence Source Between Grade (G) Aggression Type (A) GxA Error *p < .05 Table 11 ss 3.43 1.63 0.52 78.85 df 2 1 2 185 MS 1.71 1.63 0 26 0.43 F 4.02* 3.83 0.60 .020 .052 .548 100 Teachers' Perceptions of Social Competence as a Function of Aggression Type and Grade Level Aggression Type Reactive Reactive and Proactive Grades Total K-1 2-3 4-5 n M SD n M SD n M SD n M SD 52 82.3 12.3 16 87.6 16.0 26 80.5 9.3 10 78.1 10.7 139 78.1 11.7 45 80.9 12.4 47 75.9 10.3 47 77.6 12.0

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Relationships Between Peer Rejection Rates and Teacher Judgments of Social Competence 101 Hypothesis 6: Relationships between peer rejection and teacher judgments of social competence were expected to be nonsignificant among children who display both reactive and proactive aggression and significant among children who display predominantly reactive aggression for each of the three grade groups (i.e., K-1, 2-3, and 4-5). Pearson product moment correlations were calculated to determine whether relationships existed between peer rejection rates and teacher judgments of social competence for students who displayed aggressive behaviors in each of the three grade groups. All correlations were nonsignificant for students who displayed both reactive and proactive aggressive behaviors and predominantly reactive aggressive behaviors. As hypothesized, relationships between peer rejection and teacher judgments of social competence were nonsignificant for children who displayed both reactive and proactive aggressive types for each of the three grade levels (Table 12). However, relationships between peer rejection and teacher judgments of social competence also were nonsignificant for children who displayed predominantly reactive aggressive types for each of the three grade levels (Table 12). Thus, relationships

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102 Table 12 Correlations Between Peer Rejection Rates and Teachers' Perceptions of Social Competence Aggression Type Reactive Reactive and Proactive K-1 n r E 16 -.32 .22 45 -.19 .20 Grades 2-3 n r E 26 .11 .58 47 -.06 70 4-5 n r :e 10 -.40 .26 47 -.15 .32 were not found between peer rejection and teachers' perceptions of social competence for children with reactive aggression or with reactive and proactive aggression.

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CHAPTER FIVE DISCUSSION Children who display pervasively aggressive behaviors during the elementary grades increasingly become at-risk for maladaptive social adjustment (Bierman et al., 1993). The impaired social competence and rejected social status of children who engage in aggressive behavior can contribute to later adjustment problems, including academic failure, delinquency, and aggregation with other socially maladaptive youths (Kupersmidt et al., 1990; Parker & Asher, 1993). The presence of aggressive behaviors among children with behavior problems challenges educators to intervene effectively on their behalf to improve their social adjustment. Researchers have distinguished between reactive and proactive subtypes of aggression for more than 15 years (Day, Bream, & Pal, 1992; Dodge & Coie, 1987; Smithmyer et al., 2000). Attempts to distinguish between reactive and proactive aggression require one to focus on the acts that result in aggression (Day et al., 1992) and on the underlying motives that stimulate aggressive expression. Reactive aggression is defensive and occurs in response to 103

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104 a perceived prdvocation. The purpose of reactive aggression is to counteract the perceived provocation rather than to achieve some internally generated goal (Dodge & Coie, 1987). Proactive aggression, when combined with reactive aggression, provides motivation in the reinforcing value of the outcome of the act(s) of the aggressor, such as dominating another through bullying. Reactive and proactive aggression also is thought to stem from different social cognitive patterns (Crick & Dodge, 1996; Crick & Dodge, 1994; Dodge & Crick, 1990; Dodge et al., 1986). Reactive aggression is defensive, in response to perceptions of another's hostile provocation, whereas proactive aggression occurs without provocation and is a response that is instrumental and goal-directed. Similarly, children whose reactive aggressive behavior includes proactive types (e.g., bullying in response to provocation) are motivated by their expectations of certain outcomes (Smithmyer et al., 2000). The current study focused on differences in social status and social competence in children who display aggression that is primarily reactive versus that which is both reactive and proactive.

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Discussion of the Results Comparisons of Aggression Type and Peer Rejection 105 Peer rejection was found not to differ for children who are perceived as displaying predominantly reactive aggressive behavior and those displaying both reactive and proactive aggressive behavior. The expectation that children who engaged in both reactive and proactive types of aggressive behavior would differ significantly in the rate of peer rejection from children who engaged in predominantly reactive types of aggressive behavior was not supported. The more extreme overt nature of reactive aggression may influence peer rejection in children who also display proactive aggression. Peer rejection rates for the children displaying predominantly reactive and both reactive and proactive aggression also was found not to differ by grade level. Children in elementary school may not easily discern whether actual intent to inflict harm exists in hostile proactive forms of overt aggression (e.g., shoving, hitting, kicking) that are infrequent and isolated (Coie et al., 1990) and combined with reactive aggression. However, reactive and proactive aggression is defined as an interpersonal form of aggression that is differentiated on

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106 the basis of the relationship between the aggressor and the target (e.g., reactive aggression is considered a predictable act of self-defense and proactive aggression is considered an unpredictable act of provocation) (Pulkkinen, 1996). Further investigations that examine how defensive reactive aggression possibly influences goal directed hostile-proactive aggression may help explain the rate of peer rejection for elementary-school children with overt aggression. Dodge and Coie (1987) focused on the more overt, physically intrusive forms of aggressive behavior in their measurement of reactive and proactive aggression. Overt forms of behavior are characteristic of reactive aggression (e.g., angry outbursts) and proactive aggression (e.g., dominance, coercion, bullying). However, covert forms of behavior (e.g., stealing, lying, cheating) that typically also characterize proactive aggression were not included in their definition of proactive aggression (Brown et al., 1996). The lack of covert behavior in the distinction of proactive aggression also may have influenced the current study's finding that peer rejection is not significantly different for proactive aggressive behavior displayed with reactive aggressive behavior. Nevertheless, because Dodge &

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107 Coie's (1987) measurement of proactive aggression does not include coercive elements, the presumption that physically intrusive acts of aggression may be associated with peer rejection during the elementary school years is reasonable. Comparisons of Aggression Type and Social Competence Perceived social competence was found not to differ between children who demonstrated predominantly reactive aggression or both reactive and proactive aggression. Children who display physically aggressive behavior are thought to do so as a reflection of deficiencies in appropriate social skills. Reactive aggressive behavior is thought to be associated with deficits in social-cognitive skills, such as poor control over impulses to physically act-out in reaction to perceptions of hostile provocation (Dodge & Crick, 1990). Alternatively, children who display both proactive and reactive behavior may be better able to accurately perceive others' intentions. However, their distorted perceptions in positively evaluating the outcomes of physical aggression also prevent them from inhibiting their maladaptive behavior and are perceived by others as demonstrating social incompetence (Dodge, 1991). Thus, regardless of the type of aggression displayed, children who frequently

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108 engage in physically aggressive behavior have not learned how to inhibit aggression and subsequently are perceived by others (e.g., their teachers) as demonstrating inadequately developed social competence (Geen, 1998b). The current study also found that, across grade levels, teachers' evaluations of the social competence of children identified as displaying both reactive and proactive aggression differ only in the early elementary grade levels. Teachers evaluated social competence as being higher only in grades K-1 in comparison to grades 2-3. Children who display both reactive and proactive aggressive behaviors are perceived as demonstrating more maladaptive social skills in the middle elementary school grades (e.g., grades 2-3), but not in the older elementary school grades (e.g., grades 4-5). Teachers may dismiss aggressiveness in younger children and may place greater importance on aggressiveness in the development of social competence in older children. Furthermore, social competence may be perceived as being more instrumental in effecting positive peer relations and helping to negate maladaptive behavior patterns in older children. However, adults other than teachers may judge the lack of socially competent behaviors in older children more

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harshly. Further investigations of possible differences in teachers' perspectives of socially competent behavior and more objective means to identify social incompetence in children who are aggressive may help clarify what interventions are likely to be the most effective in increasing children's social competence. 109 Comparisons of Peer Rejection Rates and Teacher Perceptions of Social Competence Teachers' daily interactions with their students place them in a unique position to evaluate the appropriateness of students' behavior in comparison to normative age standards. However, children also have clear ideas as to the behavioral norms they expect to be maintained within the group context of the classroom (Coie et al., 1990). Because of their ongoing contribution in shaping the social standard in the classroom, children also are uniquely capable of evaluating the appropriateness of their peers' behavior. The current study found that there was no relationship between teacher perspectives of social competence and peer rejection of children who display predominantly reactive aggressive behavior and both reactive and proactive aggressive behavior across the elementary school grades. Teacher perceptions of the social competence of children

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who are physically aggressive may not necessarily reflect other peers' reports of their rejection. Overt physical 110 aggression occurs more commonly in younger children and was expected to be rejected with greater frequency in older children (e.g., in middle and high school) because of changes in their social-cognitive development and increased likelihood of evaluating aggression negatively (Crick & Dodge, 1996; Pettit et al., 1990). Young children who are physically aggressive may not necessarily experience rejection by their peers. Regardless of aggression type, peer rejection rates did not differ across the elementary school grades. The behavior of children who display reactive or both reactive and proactive aggression may appear to be not as deviant to their peers in elementary than in middle and/or high school. In contrast, teachers may be in a better posit i on than their students to note the consistency of physically aggressive behavior in elementary school children. Problems in the instruments used to measure social competence and social status, as discussed further in the following section, also may have influenced the study's results. Further investigations are needed to compare differences in

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peer rejection rates between children who behave aggressively in elementary and middle and high school. Limitations The Use of Teacher and Peer Perspectives in Judging Childhood Aggressive Behavior 111 The current study, unlike previous studies, considered perspectives of both teachers and peers in measuring different aspects of social functioning in children who are physically aggressive. The use of multisources (e.g., teachers and peers) when measuring children's social functioning can enhance confidence in the validity of judgments concerning reactive and proactive aggression (Waschbush et al., 1998). However, the present study was limited in its use of only a single perspective for each rating of aggression and social functioning. The current study used only teachers' perceptions to determine the type and pervasiveness of aggressive behavior, as well as the degree of social competence for the identified children. The potential for teacher bias risks reducing the usefulness of their perspective (Day et al., 1992; Dodge & Coie, 1987). Teachers tend to judge negatively those behaviors that are disruptive. They may be overly harsh in their judgments about behavior that hinders their teaching efforts (Matloff & Smith, 1999).

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Furthermore, because teacher attention often is directed toward the conclusion of aggression sequences, their limited opportunity to observe the entire social process that distinguishes features of the two types of aggressive behavior may influence their tendency to blend the two types into a broader category of aggression (Dodge & Coie, 1987). That is, they may be unable to distinguish between aggressive behaviors that are inflicted because of a lack of self-control (i.e., reactive aggression) or also to achieve a premeditated goal (i.e., proactive aggression). The use of additional reporting sources in the school 112 who also have extended opportunities to observe children (e.g., teacher's aide) may provide a more balanced account of the children's aggression, as well as social competence. Children's aggressive behavior as perceived by the teacher in the context of the classroom also does not provide a comprehensive view of children's social interactions and does not permit generalization of results to social contexts outside of the classroom. Data from significant adults who have extensive contact with children outside the classroom would (e.g., parents) provide validation as to whether teachers' behavioral ratings reflect a transient state or a stable trait.

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In this study, peer nomination data provided peer judgments of children who were and were not aggressive (i.e., peer rejection). Children have the opportunity to regularly interact with others in situations other than inside the classroom (e.g., on the bus, at recess, and in the cafeteria). Peer nomination procedures that simply ask children to name three peers with whom they liked to play and three peers with whom they did not like to play may be regarded as more valid than the behavioral ratings completed by teachers. However, other more standardized instruments, such as the Pupil Evaluation Inventory (PEI} (Pekarik, Prinz, Liebert, Weintraub, & Neale, 1976), may 113 provide more objective peer nomination data because it asks children to nominate their peers according to a wider spectrum of behaviors. Also important, the current study's peer ratings reflect qualities that differ from those that the teachers were rating. Different raters that use an instrument that measures the same qualities also increase the validity of the ratings. Lastly, in addition to observations of others (e.g., teacher and peer judgments}, future researchers should seek other independent measures of aggression and social competence. For example, disciplinary records that list the

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114 number of a student's aggressive transgressions may provide information about the type of aggressive behavior that occurred. A student's academic record (e.g., grades and test scores) provides an account of social competence regarding his or her school adjustment. Such additional sources of information increases the reliability of research pertaining to aggression and social competence. Distinguishing Reactive and Proactive Aggression The current study's reliance on Dodge and Coie's (1987) scale to measure reactive and proactive aggression may have been ill advised. The researchers reported that, although the two aggression scales were internally consistent, there was only modest support for a distinction between reactive and proactive aggression (e.g., the correlation between the subscale scores was .76). The scale's ability to measure two discrete dimensions of aggression (i.e., reactive and proactive subtypes) is unclear and may account for the lack of significance in the current study's findings. The author of the current study intends to address this issue further in subsequent analyses (e.g., conducting a factor analysis of the data). Given apparent limitations of Dodge and Coie's (1987) scale, it is important to highlight how its use may impede

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115 a comprehensive understanding of children's aggressive behavior. For example, the scale's failure to distinguish covert forms of proactive aggression (e.g., lying and stealing) (Brown et al., 1996) may have negatively influenced the current study's findings. As previously noted, the lack of items that measure covert, anti-social behaviors in a scale designed to assess proactive aggression draws into question the adequacy of its scope and thus its completeness for use in a study intended to examine overt, physical indicators of proactive aggression. The overlap between reactive and proactive aggression may signify that many children use both forms of physical aggression and that some overt behaviors may contain both reactive and proactive types (Poulin & Boivin, 2000). The current study is important because it attempted to stress other factors (e.g., social competence and social status) that may support differences in the display of aggressive behavior. Concerns Related to Small Sample Sizes Data were collected from teacher ratings of 796 children. However, small numbers of children constituted the various aggression subgroups (e.g., n = 10 for children in grades 4-5 who were perceived by their teachers as

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predominantly reactively aggressive). Small sample sizes and restricted variance limit the interpretation of findings. 116 Studies that examine aggressiveness in children often have small samples For example, the number of children in different aggression groups in Dodge and Coie's (1987) initial study also were small (e.g., out of a total sample of 339 boys, 11 in grades 1 and 3 were perceived by their teacher as predominantly reactively aggressive). Furthermore, numerous other studies in reactive and proactive aggression included children from larger metropolitan areas (Brown et al., 1996; Crick & Dodge, 1996; Day et al., 1992; Poulin & Boivin, 2000) that may have greater numbers of children with aggressive behavior problems and/or who display aggression more frequently. Smaller percentages of children who were perceived as displaying aggressive behavior in the current study may be attributed to their living in a rural area The frequency of aggressive behavior displayed by children may differ in larger metropolitan and rural areas and may influence differences in teachers' perceptions of the display of aggression. Studies that examine possible differences i n

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117 perceptions of social functioning among teachers working in urban and rural areas are needed. Because of the varying distribution of boys and girls in the two aggression groups, I did not attempt to assess whether the relationships between peer rejection rates and teacher judgments of social competence differed as a function of gender. However, future research should incorporate more comprehensive investigations of the function of gender in differences in the display of aggressive behavior. Recent research highlights differences in the expression of aggression between boys and girls (Crick, 1997; Crick, Casas, & Mosher, 1997; Crick & Dodge, 1996) and is discussed further in the following section. Implications and Concluding Remarks This study highlights the complexity of assessing different types of aggressive behavior and relevant social qualities, including social status and social competence. In particular, attempts to assess reactive and proactive aggression are challenging. Problems exist in the operationalization of the two types of aggressive behavior and continue to be a focus of debate and investigation (Poulin & Boivin, 2000; Smithmyer et al., 2000). Results of the current study underscore the need to further refine the

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distinction between reactive and proactive types of childhood aggression. Hostile forms of aggression are distinct from instrumental forms of aggression when they are precisely defined (Atkins, Stoff, Osborne, & Brown, 1993). However, the identification of goals inherent in the expression of aggressive behavior may be more difficult when proactive (e.g., peer dominance versus object possession in response to premeditated goals) is combined with reactive (e.g., defensive behavior in response to provocation) behavior. Similar to reactive aggression, hostile-proactive aggression might be elicited by frustration, whereas instrumental-proactive aggression (e.g., escape from aversive stimuli, peer dominance, peer approval) is elicited to achieve a premeditated goal (Buss, 1966). The current study's lack of significant findings may indicate that the social context where the goals and functions of children's aggression occur (e.g., classroom versus playground) needs further exploration. 118 Recent studies also increasingly distinguish different social patterns of relational forms of proactive aggression in boys and girls (Crick, 1997; Crick, Casas, & Mosher, 1997; Crick & Dodge, 1996). Overt acts of relational

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119 aggression (e.g., verbal and physical intimidation) with the purpose of achieving physical harm and/or dominance typically are attributed to boys (Crick, 1996) and may more likely be associated with overt behaviors of reactive aggression. Girls, in contrast, typically engage in a more socialized form of relational aggression (e.g., rumor spreading or other forms of social exclusion) with the goal of hindering affiliation and intimacy (Crick, 1997) not particularly associated with overt behaviors of reactive behavior. Although gender differences were not examined in this study, further research can contribute to the understanding of aggressive behavior by studying similarities and differences in the ways aggression is displayed in boys and girls. Further research that addresses the multifaceted nature of childhood aggression may present researchers with insight into the development and maintenance of maladaptive behavioral patterns in children. The study of social competence and social status may lead to greater understanding of the interpersonal context of aggressive behavior in children. The inclusion of information on classroom behavior (e g., social competence) and social status (e.g., peer rejection) enhances the usefulness of

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distinguishing types of aggressive behavior in children (Waschbusch, Willoughby, & Pelham, 1998). Further research may improve our understanding of relationships between social qualities and distinct types of aggressive behavior as displayed in multiple settings (e.g., school, home, and other community settings) as well as perceived from more than one perspective. 120

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BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH Prior to beginning his graduate studies at the University of Florida, Gary earned his master's degree in clinical psychology from Fairleigh Dickinson University. He began work toward a doctorate in psychology degree in clinical psychology at the University of Hartford until he withdrew from the program to pursue more specific interests. Gary subsequently earned a Certificate of Advanced Graduate Studies, the equivalent of a specialist degree in school psychology, from Northeastern University As he was more focused in his interests in the field of psychology, Gary began his pursuit of a Doctorate of Philosophy degree. Gary was an active student and pursued research opportunities relevant to his interests in children with behavioral and emotional disorders During his studies, Gary also was employed as a school psychologist for a small, rural school district He also became active in the school community and volunteered as a Big Brother for a pair of brothers for nearly two years. 1 38

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In the future, Gary plans to continue his research in the area of aggression, particularly within the context of emotional and behavioral disorders in children and adolescents. His other research interests include children with attachment disorders and resiliency in children who are raised in dysfunctional families. 139

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I certify that I have read this study and that in my opinion it conforms to acceptable standards of scholarly presentation and is fully adequate, in scope and quality, as a dissertation for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy. Thomas Oakland, Chair Professor of Educational Psychology I certify that I have read this study and that in my opinion it conforms to acceptable standards of scholarly presentation and is fully adequate, in scope and quality, as a dissertation for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy. Tina Smith Assistant Professor of Educational Psychology I certify that I have read this study and that in my opinion it conforms to acceptable standards of scholarly presentation and is fully adequate, in scope and quality, as a dissertation for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy. Professor of Special Education I certify that I have read this study and that in my opinion it conforms to acceptable standards of scholarly presentation and is fully adequate, in scope and quality, as a dissertation for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy. Q /4u L)u~ Patrhcia Ashton Professor of Educational Psychology

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This dissertation was submitted to the Graduate Faculty of the College of Education and to the Graduate School and was accepted as partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy. August, 2001 Dean, College ofEduca~


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