Attributional Biases in Aggressive Children and Their Mothers


To investigate if mothers and their aggressive children share the tendency to infer hostile motives from others' behavior in ambiguous social situations, 100 pairs of mothers and their clinic-referred or comparison children (50 boys and 50 girls) were asked to interpret hypothetical situations involving both overtly and relationally provocative scenarios. Results replicated previous findings of studies on social information processing of aggressive children and extended the findings to mothers of aggressive children. Findings were generally consistent with the hypothesis that mothers of aggressive children tend to view others' ambiguous actions as hostile, increasing the probability of responding with aggression and, in effect, modeling a hostile attributional bias for their children. Examinations of mothers' and their children's attributional and behavioral intentions suggested that mothers' and daughters' attributions and behavioral intentions were significantly correlated, whereas mothers' and sons' were not. Gender effects with regard to provocation type are also discussed.

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