Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Researchers investigate aggression among kindergartners

28.09.2012
Not all aggressive children are aggressive for the same reasons, according to Penn State researchers, who found that some kindergartners who are aggressive show low verbal abilities while others are more easily physiologically aroused. The findings suggest that different types of treatments may be needed to help kids with different underlying causes for problem behavior.

"Aggressive responses to being frustrated are a normal part of early childhood, but children are increasingly expected to manage their emotions and control their behavior when they enter school," said Lisa Gatzke-Kopp, assistant professor of human development and family studies.

"Kids who don't do this well, who hit their classmates when they are frustrated or cause other types of disturbances in the classroom, are at especially high risk for long-term consequences including delinquency, violence, dropping out of school, abusing substances and even suicide. Research tells us that the earlier we can intervene, the better the chances of getting these children back on track."

Gatzke-Kopp and her colleagues, who include Mark Greenberg, professor of human development and family studies and of psychology, asked each of the kindergarten teachers in all 10 of the elementary schools in Pennsylvania's Harrisburg School District to rate the aggressive behaviors of their students on a six-point scale with items such as "gets in many fights" and "cruelty, bullying or meanness to others." Using these data, the team recruited a group of high-risk children (207 children) and a group of low-risk children (132 children) to undergo a range of neurobiological measures aimed at understanding how aggressive children experience and manage emotions differently than their non-aggressive classmates.

The team assessed all of the children's cognitive and academic skills using standardized tests that identified the children's developmental level of vocabulary, spatial reasoning and memory. In addition, the team asked teachers to provide ratings of each child's behaviors, including their levels of aggression, disobedience and sadness, as well as their social skills and level of self-control in the classroom.

The researchers also assessed the children's brain functioning using a mobile research laboratory they brought to the schools. Within the mobile lab, the team measured the children's heart rate and skin conductance activity during tasks designed to elicit emotional responses, including showing the children short video clips of a cartoon character in a variety of situations depicting fear, sadness, happiness and anger. The researchers wanted to understand how emotional and physical arousal to different types of emotions differed between children who engage in aggressive behavior and children who don't engage in aggressive behavior, as well as how different children who engage in aggressive behavior react.

According to Gatzke-Kopp, the assessments enabled the researchers to understand how cognitive and emotional processing may contribute to the development of aggressive tendencies. Specifically, the team found that 90 percent of the aggressive kids in the study could be characterized as either low in verbal ability or more easily physiologically aroused. The results appeared in a recent issue of Development and Psychopathology.

"What we may be seeing is that there are at least two different routes through which a child may act aggressively," Gatzke-Kopp said. "Because these are very different processes, these children may need different approaches to changing their behavior."

The first group of kids was characterized by lower verbal ability, lower levels of cognitive functioning and fewer executive function skills.

According to Gatzke-Kopp, children need verbal skills to understand the feelings of others and guidance from adults, and to express feelings without hitting. They also need adequate cognitive and executive-function abilities to manipulate information and to think of alternatives to hitting and fighting.

"This group of kids may be functioning at a cognitive level that is more akin to a preschooler than a kindergartner," Gatzke-Kopp said. "They have a harder time extracting what other people are feeling. They don't have a nuanced sense of emotions; everything is either happy or sad to them. So they might not be as good at recognizing how their behavior is making another child feel. They may literally have a hard time 'using their words,' so hitting becomes an easier solution when they are frustrated."

The second group of kids had good verbal and cognitive functioning, but they were more physiologically aroused. They were more emotionally reactive, and tended to have more stressors in their lives.

"These children may be able to tell you that if somebody pushed them on the playground they would go get a teacher, but the push happens and they kind of lose it and it doesn't matter what they should do, they just act on impulse," Greenberg said. "One possibility is that the threshold for managing frustration is quite low for these kids. So what we might consider a minor annoyance to them is a major threat. When they are calm they function very well, but when they lose control of their emotions, they can't control their behavior."

In the future, the team plans to examine how these different types of children respond to an intervention delivered over the second half of kindergarten and the first half of first grade.

The Pennsylvania Department of Health funded this research. Other authors of the paper include Christine Fortunato, postdoctoral fellow, and Michael Coccia, statistical consultant, both in the Penn State Prevention Research Center for the Promotion of Human Development.

Sara LaJeunesse | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.psu.edu

More articles from Studies and Analyses:

nachricht Win-win strategies for climate and food security
02.10.2017 | International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA)

nachricht The personality factor: How to foster the sharing of research data
06.09.2017 | ZBW – Leibniz-Informationszentrum Wirtschaft

All articles from Studies and Analyses >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Neutron star merger directly observed for the first time

University of Maryland researchers contribute to historic detection of gravitational waves and light created by event

On August 17, 2017, at 12:41:04 UTC, scientists made the first direct observation of a merger between two neutron stars--the dense, collapsed cores that remain...

Im Focus: Breaking: the first light from two neutron stars merging

Seven new papers describe the first-ever detection of light from a gravitational wave source. The event, caused by two neutron stars colliding and merging together, was dubbed GW170817 because it sent ripples through space-time that reached Earth on 2017 August 17. Around the world, hundreds of excited astronomers mobilized quickly and were able to observe the event using numerous telescopes, providing a wealth of new data.

Previous detections of gravitational waves have all involved the merger of two black holes, a feat that won the 2017 Nobel Prize in Physics earlier this month....

Im Focus: Smart sensors for efficient processes

Material defects in end products can quickly result in failures in many areas of industry, and have a massive impact on the safe use of their products. This is why, in the field of quality assurance, intelligent, nondestructive sensor systems play a key role. They allow testing components and parts in a rapid and cost-efficient manner without destroying the actual product or changing its surface. Experts from the Fraunhofer IZFP in Saarbrücken will be presenting two exhibits at the Blechexpo in Stuttgart from 7–10 November 2017 that allow fast, reliable, and automated characterization of materials and detection of defects (Hall 5, Booth 5306).

When quality testing uses time-consuming destructive test methods, it can result in enormous costs due to damaging or destroying the products. And given that...

Im Focus: Cold molecules on collision course

Using a new cooling technique MPQ scientists succeed at observing collisions in a dense beam of cold and slow dipolar molecules.

How do chemical reactions proceed at extremely low temperatures? The answer requires the investigation of molecular samples that are cold, dense, and slow at...

Im Focus: Shrinking the proton again!

Scientists from the Max Planck Institute of Quantum Optics, using high precision laser spectroscopy of atomic hydrogen, confirm the surprisingly small value of the proton radius determined from muonic hydrogen.

It was one of the breakthroughs of the year 2010: Laser spectroscopy of muonic hydrogen resulted in a value for the proton charge radius that was significantly...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

ASEAN Member States discuss the future role of renewable energy

17.10.2017 | Event News

World Health Summit 2017: International experts set the course for the future of Global Health

10.10.2017 | Event News

Climate Engineering Conference 2017 Opens in Berlin

10.10.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Osaka university researchers make the slipperiest surfaces adhesive

18.10.2017 | Materials Sciences

Space radiation won't stop NASA's human exploration

18.10.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

Los Alamos researchers and supercomputers help interpret the latest LIGO findings

18.10.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>