Proactive and reactive aggression subtypes are distinguishable as early as the preschool years. However, their early physiological and social–emotional correlates have not been examined simultaneously. We tested whether children's skin conductance level, anger regulation, and trust in others were differentially related to their proactive and reactive aggression. Four-year-olds and their primary caregivers were recruited from a large Canadian city (N = 150). Controlling for reactive aggression, higher trust was associated with lower proactive aggression, but only for children with low anger regulation or skin conductance level. Controlling for proactive aggression, lower anger regulation was related to higher reactive aggression, and higher trust was related to higher reactive aggression for children with high skin conductance level. Findings highlight the unique and collective relations of physiology, emotion regulation, and trust to different forms of aggression in early childhood. Statement of contribution What is already known on this subject Proactive and reactive aggression subtypes are distinguishable as early as the preschool years. Unique physiological and social–emotional correlates of each subtype have been studied in middle and late childhood. Trust is a critical milestone for positive social interactions in early childhood and has been linked to aggression. What the present study adds Physiological and social–emotional correlates are uniquely linked to subtypes of aggression already at age 4. Trust is differentially linked to aggression subtypes as a function of anger regulation and skin conductance level.
Bibliographical noteFunding Information:
This research was supported by a Canadian Institutes of Health Research Foundation Grant awarded to Tina Malti (FDN-148389). The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest. The authors thank the children and caregivers who participated, and the members of the Laboratory for Social-Emotional Development and Intervention at the University of Toronto who helped with data collection and processing.
© 2019 The British Psychological Society
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Developmental and Educational Psychology
- Developmental Neuroscience