IS WHAT THEY SAY REALLY WHAT THEY DO? The correspondence between recalled social information processing and actual behaviour of aggressive and nonaggressive boys and the role of emotion regulation
Pelt, R.D. van
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Reactive aggression is often linked to social information processing and more specific to the attribution of a hostile intent. In the present study we aimed to examine the correspondence between attribution of intent during a play session and recalled attribution of intent as measured with questionnaires in both typically developing children and aggressive children from 6 to 8 years of age. A second aim of this study was to examine if the predicted difference in levels of reactive aggression were mediated by attribution of intent. Methods: Typically developing children and aggressive children played a domino game in pairs. They had to respond to social information processing questionnaires after the game and two months prior to the game. Teachers filled out a questionnaire to establish teacher-rated reactive aggression scores. The results reveal that questionnaires designed to measure hostile intent are uncorrelated to hostile intent in behaviour. Second, it was found that the teacher-rated aggression score of the aggressive boys was significantly higher than that of the typically developing boys. However, there appeared to be no difference in reactive aggression levels during the game between typically developing boys and aggressive boys. There appeared to be no significant group difference on the hostile attribution scores measured during the game as well as measured with the questionnaires. We find that hostile intent measured with vignettes directly after the game predicted some of the aggression scores during the game. Reactive aggression during the game was highest among the boys who moderately attributed hostile intent. In conclusion we can state that what children respond to social information processing questionnaires doesn’t represent the boy’s actual behaviour. Aggressive boys and typically developing boys appeared equally aggressive during the game and attributed equal amounts of hostile intent. Future research should try to unravel the differences between these two groups by testing them in a more ambiguous situation.