Raising an aggressive child

Raising an aggressive child

Children learn their behavior from their experiences and interactions with the physical and emotional environments. Children can begin to exhibit aggressiveness in early childhood that may persist through to adolescence. The aggressive behavior can be towards their peers, self, object, and parents (Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, 2002). Aggressive behavior impedes the child’s optimal learning capacity as well as social competence (Felicia, 2011). It can also lead to problems of maladjustment later in life due to incompetence in handling their anger (Goleman, 1988). This module explores the psychological theories and perspectives that explain the development of the aggressive behavior in children and recommends ways of preventing and addressing aggressive behavior in children.

Causes of the aggressive behavior

Psychologists use the social learning theory and the perspective of harsh parenting as some of the theoretical frameworks that explain the establishment of aggressiveness in children. The social learning theory is a subclass of learning and conditioning theory. It asserts that the learner observes a particular behavior in his or her social environment that eventually models their behavior (Akers, 2011). In the context of aggressive behavior in children, the simplest application of this theory is that by observing aggressiveness in their social environment children learn to become aggressive. A study conducted in 2007 by Sarah Duman and Gayla Margolin affirms this position. According to the study, marital aggressiveness by the parents often resulted in children adopting aggressive behavior towards their peers. Mother-to-father physical aggressiveness made the girls more aggressive than boys while father father-to-mother aggressiveness made the boys more aggressive to peers than girls.

Studies have also indicated that harsh parenting has a similar effect on a child’s aggressiveness. According to Chang et al. (2009), harsh parenting has both indirect and direct effect on a child’s aggressive behavior in the school environment, which is seen as a mediation process of resolving their emotional needs. The harsh parenting often leaves the child disgruntled and fearful towards its parents. This ultimately leads to emotions of frustration, which Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (2002) defines as blocking of one’s goal-directed behavior. Using the frustration-aggression theory, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (2002) states that frustration leads to anger, which subsequently could lead to aggressive behavior.


Prevention and management of the aggressive behavior in children are crucial for optimal development and positive later life. As indicated earlier, child aggression can easily lead to maladjustment in later life. The aggression can also be an early indicator of other serious mental conditions such as ADHD (Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis, 2007). Therefore, preventive measures are paramount. The Attachment Theory is critical in prevention and intervention of aggression in children because it emphasizes on the need of quality early relationships and positive social environment for children. This theory is reflected in the support triangle proposed by Powell, Dunlap, & Fox (2006). The first layer of the triangle involves building positive relationships between family members and the children. This helps create positive attachment, which will prevent any frustrations and emotional imbalance. The second layer entails preventing practices that could lead to aggressive behavior both at home and in school. It helps prevent social learning of negative behavior by avoiding marital or family aggressiveness as well as harsh treatment or parenting. These two parameters are necessary for all children. The third layer is for children who are at risk of developing aggression. It involves using social-emotional learning strategies to help them learn ways of coping with anger and frustrations. The last layer entails intensive individualized interventions. This is critical for children with established, severe negative behavior such as persistent aggression.

References Akers, R. L. (2011). Social Learning and Social Structure: A General Theory of Crime and Deviance. Piscataway: Transaction Publishers. Chang, L., Schwartz, D., Dodge, K. A., & Mc-Bride-Chang, C. (2009). Harsh Parenting in Relation to Child Emotion Regulation and Aggression. Journal of Family Psychology, 17(4), 598-606. Felicia, P. (2011). Handbook of Research on Improving Learning and Motivation through Educational Games: Multidisciplinary Approaches: Multidisciplinary Approaches. Hershey: IGI Global. Goleman, D. (1988, October 6). Health: Psychology; Aggression in Children Can Mean Problems Later. Retrieved September 18, 2017, from The New York Times Web site: http://www.nytimes.com/1988/10/06/us/health-psychology-aggression-in-children-can-mean-problems-later.html?pagewanted=all&mcubz=0 Powell, D., Dunlap, G., & Fox, L. (2006). Prevention and Intervention for the Challenging Behaviors of Toddlers and Preschoolers. Infants and Young Children, 19(1), 25-35. Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. (2002, September 30). Biological and Social causes of Aggression. Retrieved September 18, 2017, from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute Web site: http://homepages.rpi.edu/~verwyc/oh10.htm Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis. (2007, December 19). Excessive Tantrums In Preschoolers May Indicate Serious Mental Health Problems. Retrieved September 18, 2017, from Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis Web site: https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2007/12/071213194723.htm