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The Development of Aggression from Ages 2 to 9.5 in a High Risk Sample of Males and Females: Similarities and Differences in Patterns, Predictors, and Outcomes

Brennan, Lauretta (2015) The Development of Aggression from Ages 2 to 9.5 in a High Risk Sample of Males and Females: Similarities and Differences in Patterns, Predictors, and Outcomes. Doctoral Dissertation, University of Pittsburgh. (Unpublished)

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Sex differences in base rates of aggression are well-established, with males showing higher levels from preschool-age through adulthood. Research investigating the etiology of these sex differences in base rates of aggression has the potential to inform basic science and prevention. A growing body of work has produced relatively consistent results showing that boys possess a greater number of child-level risk factors for aggression beginning in early childhood; however, findings are less consistent with respect to whether associations between risk and aggression are stronger in boys than in girls. The current study aimed to advance our understanding of associations between early childhood risk and the development of aggressive behavior, as well as the middle childhood consequences of early-starting aggression, in a sample of 731 boys and girls recruited at age 2 for being at high risk of developing conduct problems. Children were followed longitudinally to age 10.5 utilizing multiple data collection techniques including parent and teacher reports, home observation, and structured assessments of child behavior and parent-child interaction. The findings showed that a small proportion of both sexes exhibited high and persistent trajectories of aggression from early to middle childhood and that boys (13.3%) were more likely to exhibit this pattern than girls (6.9%). Toddler-age child-level risk factors for aggression (e.g., low inhibitory control, language delays) were more prevalent in boys than in girls, but no sex differences were observed with respect to base rates of contextual risk factors (e.g., parent depression, parent-child coercion). Associations between toddler-age risk and trajectories of high persistent aggression were not stronger in boys than in girls. A pattern of high persistent aggressive behavior was associated with a broad array of impairments during middle childhood for both sexes, including externalizing and internalizing problems, as well as difficulties in social domains.


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Item Type: University of Pittsburgh ETD
Status: Unpublished
CreatorsEmailPitt UsernameORCID
Brennan, Laurettalmb103@pitt.eduLMB103
ETD Committee:
TitleMemberEmail AddressPitt UsernameORCID
Committee ChairShaw, Daniel S.danielshaw@pitt.eduCASEY
Committee MemberCampbell, Susan B.sbcamp@pitt.eduSBCAMP
Committee MemberPardini, Dustindap38@pitt.eduDAP38
Committee MemberVotruba-Drzal, Elizabethevotruba@pitt.eduEVOTRUBA
Date: 10 September 2015
Date Type: Publication
Defense Date: 22 August 2014
Approval Date: 10 September 2015
Submission Date: 10 May 2015
Access Restriction: No restriction; Release the ETD for access worldwide immediately.
Number of Pages: 136
Institution: University of Pittsburgh
Schools and Programs: Dietrich School of Arts and Sciences > Psychology
Degree: PhD - Doctor of Philosophy
Thesis Type: Doctoral Dissertation
Refereed: Yes
Uncontrolled Keywords: Developmental psychopathology, conduct problems, externalizing, parenting, social functioning
Date Deposited: 10 Sep 2015 17:21
Last Modified: 15 Nov 2016 14:28


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