Attributional Styles of Aggressive Boys and Their Mothers


To determine if mothers of aggressive boys have the same propensity as their sons to infer hostile intentions in ambiguous interpersonal situations, 50 mothers of aggressive and nonaggressive boys were each asked to interpret hypothetical situations involving themselves with their child, their partner, and a peer as well as hypothetical situations involving their child in interaction with classmates and teachers. Their sons also were each requested to interpret hypothetical situations involving themselves with their mother, a teacher, and a classmate. The results indicated that mothers of aggressive boys do share the propensity to infer hostility in ambiguous situations and may, in effect, model a hostile attributional bias. Mothers of aggressive boys failed to differentiate ambiguous from hostile situations and were as likely to infer hostile intentions in ambiguous as in hostile situations. The results also suggest a generalized tendency on the part of mothers of aggressive boys to infer negative motives and/or dispositions when accounting for the noxious behavior of their sons. Further, for the aggressive boys, the hostile attributional bias was evident with both peers and teachers. The presence of a hostile attribution was predictive of an aggressive response for the aggressive boys. Even in the face of clearly hostile, provocative behavior, nonaggressive boys were less likely to offer aggressive solutions than aggressive boys.

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