School Psychology Review

Forms and Functions of Aggression During Early Childhood: A Short-Term Longitudinal Study

Jamie M. Ostrov, Nicki R. Crick

pp. 22-43

General Issue

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Abstract. The school classroom and playground provide an important context for learning about young children’s social interactions. A multimethod, multi-informant, short-term longitudinal study was conducted to investigate the utility of including school-based observational assessments of both form (i.e., physical and relational) and function (i.e., proactive and reactive) of aggressive behavior at school with a young sample during early childhood (132 children; M = 44.37 months; SD = 9.88). The study revealed low intercorrelations between observed proactive and reactive functions of aggression and low to moderate levels of stability. Based on 160 min of observation per child for an academic year, the findings revealed that boys are more physically aggressive to peers than are girls, whereas girls are more relationally aggressive than are boys. The results provide evidence for the differential association between aggression categories and future social–psychological adjustment constructs with particular relevancy for school contexts (i.e., peer rejection and student–teacher conflict).