Child aggression: what it depends on and how to prevent it according to a US research

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Philippe Gloaguen
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Source: alamy

Children who develop aggression are those who interpret (often incorrectly) the behaviors of others as hostile towards them.

This was revealed by a study that lasted 4 years and involved 1299 children and parents. This is the largest research ever carried out on this topic, so much so that it has taken into consideration 12 cultural groups of 9 different nationalities.


Words that hurt children

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The idea behind the "Weapon of Choice" project, the choice of weapon, is to create a visual representation of the emotional damage that verbal insults can do.

"Our study identifies the psychological process that leads a child to commit acts of violence," said Kenneth A. Dodge, director of the center for child and family policy at Duke University in Durham (USA) and author of the study. .

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"When a child thinks that he is being threatened by someone else and that the other person is acting with hostile intentions towards him, then he is very likely to react aggressively.

This study demonstrates that this pattern of behavior is universal and is found in all 12 cultural groups analyzed ".

At the root of aggression is the prejudice that others are hostile to us

"Our research also highlights that cultures differ in their tendency to raise children with a more or less defensive attitude towards others, and these differences represent the reason why some cultures have children with more aggressive behavior than other cultures. .

To prevent aggression, however, it is essential to make our children more sociable, more benign and tolerant of others and less defensive. With less aggressive guys, society will be more peaceful"Dodge said.

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The cities and countries involved in the study were: Jinan, China; Medellin, Colombia; Madrid and the city, Del Paese; Zarqa, Jordan; the Luo tribe of Kisumu, Kenya; Manila, Philippines; Trollhättan / Vanersborg, Sweden; Chiang Mai, Thailand; Durham in the United States (which included African American, European, American and Hispanic communities).

At the start of the study, the children were 8 years old.

The experiment

The researchers measured the levels of aggressive behavior of the little ones by observing both the babies and the mothers. Then the children were asked to respond to cartoons that posed situations that could be interpreted as hostile or non-hostile.

The result: when children interpreted these ambiguous situations as hostile, they had an aggressive reaction. And growing up, children with this "hostility bias" were the ones who developed the most aggressive behaviors.

Children must be taught not to see enemies in others

This finding suggests that the key to preventing aggressive behavior is to get children to think differently about the intentions of others.

"Not only do we have to teach our children not to do to others what we would not want them to do to ourselves, but also to think of others as we would like them to think of us.

It is important that our children learn to give others the benefit of the doubt, so that they grow less aggressive, less anxious and more competent"says the researcher.


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The results, published in "Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences", are useful not only for addressing the problem of aggression between individuals, but also to understand larger conflicts on a large scale, such as the Israeli Arab confrontation or the racial struggles in the United States.

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  • aggression
  • because a child is aggressive
  • how to raise non-aggressive children
  • tolerance
  • 6-14 children years
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