Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Aggressive Behavior in Toddlers

By Philip Copitch, Ph.D.

A new study gives us insight into aggressive behavior in toddlers. Researchers from the University of Minnesota looked into the relationship moms have with their newborns and how it influences their behavior in preschool.

Michael F. Lorber, the lead researcher said in a press release, “Before the study, we thought it was likely the combination of difficult infant temperament and negative parenting that put parent-child pairs most at risk for conflict in the toddler period, and then put the children at risk for conduct problems at school age. However, our findings suggest that it was negative parenting in early infancy that mattered most.” 

The researchers looked at over 260 mother-infant pairs following them through first grade. Each infant was evaluated for temperament during their first week of life and again at about 6 months. When the children were in kindergarten and first grade, their mothers and teachers were surveyed concerning the child's behaviors at home and in the classroom. 

The result of the longitudinal study suggests that the children who were aggressive and explosive in kindergarten and first grade tended to have disorganized and angry relationships with their mothers. Mothers who showed negative emotions towards their infants and rough handling of their infants, more often had children who were aggressive and defiant in kindergarden and first grade.

Over time...

The study showed that over time the behaviors of the children got more aggressive and defiant leading to more negative parenting from the parent. This study suggests a cycle of turbulent family behaviors leading to children having a harder time when they start school.

“The results of our study move beyond descriptive findings to explain the underlying process linking how mothers parent their children in infancy and the problems children have in early elementary school,” Lorber pointed out.

Parenting is a learned behavior. This study shows the importance of parents learning how to parent in non aggressive ways.