Different reasons for childhood aggression

Young children can be aggressive for different reasons, new research has shown. According to investigators from Penn State University, some kids who become easily enraged show low verbal abilities, while others are physiologically aroused more easily.

The researchers noted the findings suggest children who display problematic behaviour may benefit from different types of treatment.

Lisa Gatzke-Kopp, Assistant Professor of Human Development and Family Studies at the learning institute, explained it is normal for youngsters to respond aggressively when they are frustrated - but they should be able to better manage these emotions once they enter school.

The investigation highlighted two groups of behaviour, with the first characterised by lower verbal ability, less cognitive functioning and fewer executive function skills, while the others have good verbal and cognitive attributes but are more physiologically aroused.

Ms Gatzke-Kopp said of this second group: "One possibility is that the threshold for managing frustration is quite low for these kids. So what we might consider a minor annoyance to them is a major threat."

Chartered Psychologist Dr Abigael San comments:

"Children are indeed aggressive for different reasons and this is helpful research that begins to unpick underlying causes.  Whilst heightened physiological arousal may trigger frustration, frustration may also result when a child's ability to communicate their needs is compromised. Whilst strategies to manage frustration will be helpful for both groups of children, techniques to improve communication skills will also be useful for children in the low verbal skills group."