Date of Award:

8-2019

Document Type:

Dissertation

Degree Name:

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Department:

Family, Consumer, and Human Development

Advisor/Chair:

Lori A. Roggman

Co-Advisor/Chair:

Shelley L. Knudsen Lindauer

Third Advisor:

Ann M. Berghout Austin

Abstract

Early behavior problems, such as childhood aggression, emerge in the second year of life and decrease prior to school entry for typically developing children. However, some children show frequent and persistent aggression and may be at risk for subsequent difficulties that lead to poor school and life outcomes. The current study aimed to identify aggression patterns in children from toddlerhood to early adolescence for boys and girls together and separately. This study also explored early influences on aggressive behaviors at age two, such as mothers’ parenting behaviors, cumulative family risk, and early child characteristics. A range of difficulties in early adolescence were investigated, including poor social skills, low academic success, internalizing problems (e.g., depression and anxiety), and delinquent behaviors. Data from a previous study of 3,000 families and children, the Early Head Start Research and Evaluation longitudinal study, which followed families and children from infancy to early adolescence were examined. Four aggression patterns were found, characterized by changes over time in the amount of aggressive behaviors exhibited, applicable to both boys and girls: low-stable, moderate-decreasing, moderate-increasing, and high-stable. Early parenting and development during toddlerhood discriminated these distinctive aggression patterns. Compared with children in the low-stable group, boys in the moderate-decreasing and high-stable groups, and girls in the high-stable group were less likely to have mothers using positive parenting behaviors. Boys in the moderate-decreasing group and girls in the high-stable group were more likely to show delayed language development. Boys in the moderate-decreasing and high-stable groups were more likely to indicate poor emotional regulation. Moreover, compared with children in the low-stable group, those in the moderate-decreasing, moderate-increasing, or high-stable groups tended to show difficulties in early adolescence, such as lack of social skills, lower academic success, more internalizing problems, and delinquent behaviors. Altogether, young children exhibiting high levels of aggression over time were at the highest risk for later social, behavioral, and academic problems when, at age two, they had mothers with less positive parenting behaviors or when they showed poor language development or poor emotional regulation.

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