The Development of Patterns of Stable, Transient, and School-Age Onset Aggressive Behavior in Young Children Academic Article uri icon


  • OBJECTIVE: To examine the development of patterns of aggressive behavior in children from the age of 2 to 8 years. METHOD: Children with early histories of aggressive behavior were selected from a community sample of 2,400 infants participating in a longitudinal study. The sample was divided into four groups: children with stable aggressive behavior, those with transient aggression, those with aggression only after age 5 years (late onset), and a comparison group of nonaggressive children. RESULTS: Children with stable aggressive behavior were characterized by a difficult temperament, hostile sibling interactions, maternal perception of the child as difficult, and harsher child-rearing practices. Children whose early aggression decreased over time and those who became aggressive only after entering school could not be reliably classified with the selected family variables. Teacher ratings of temperament factors of task orientation and reactivity and ability ratings correctly classified 74% of children whose aggression began at school-age. CONCLUSIONS: Children with persistent aggressive behavior differed from those who improved, predominantly in terms of symptom severity. Problems with aggression can be identified early in development, and a significant proportion of aggressive children are at risk for continuing social and scholastic difficulties. Knowledge of associated factors may play an important role in prevention.

publication date

  • March 1995