The Relation of Locus of Control, Anger, and Impulsivity to Boys' Aggressive Behavior

By Deming, Annie M.; Lochman, John E. | Behavioral Disorders, February 2008 | Go to article overview

The Relation of Locus of Control, Anger, and Impulsivity to Boys' Aggressive Behavior


Deming, Annie M., Lochman, John E., Behavioral Disorders


ABSTRACT:

This study attempted to discover how anger, locus of control, and impulsivity are related to aggression. Two pathways to aggression were examined: a cognitive/schema pathway and an emotion/impulsivity pathway. The sample included 242 fourth- and fifth-grade boys. Using data from several questionnaires, teachers reported on levels of reactive and proactive aggressive behaviors, parents reported on the participants' impulsivity, and the participants reported on locus of control and anger. Results indicated that anger and impulsivity were positively associated with aggression. Internal locus of control for success was negatively associated with aggression. In addition, impulsivity mediated the relation between anger and aggression. Implications for intervention are also discussed based on the mediation results.

* Within the youth population, behavioral patterns involving aggression, acting out, and conduct problems represent the highest referral rates for mental health services (Achenbach & Howell, 1993; Frick & Silverthorn, 2001). A recent study found that among U.S. boys aged 9 to 12 years, about 6.1% displayed conduct problems (Mojtabai, 2006).

Aggression is determined by a complex interplay of risk and protective factors within the realms of family factors, parenting factors, school factors, peer factors, neighborhood factors, and child factors (Loeber & Farrington, 2000; Hinshaw & Lee, 2003). A useful context in which to study aggressive behavior is the contextual social-cognitive model (e.g., Lochman & Wells, 1996, 2002). Some important child-level factors within this model include schemas, emotion (especially anger), difficulties with regulating anger, impulsivity, and deficits in processing social information. This model as well as other recent research and conceptualizations of aggressive behavior encourage the integration of emotional, behavioral, and cognitive components (e.g., Lemerise & Arsenio, 2000). This study will attempt to examine how emotion and cognition combine to predict aggression.

Even when focusing on an individual child's characteristics, there are different pathways to aggressive behavior and complex interrelationships among intraindividual variables (e.g., psychobiological, neuropsychological, cognitive, emotional, social information processing; Hinshaw & Lee, 2003). This article will focus on variables within two possible pathways to aggressive behavior at the child level. One pathway can be thought of as emotional, impulsive, and automatic processing (Poulin and Boivin 1999; Dodge, Lochman, Harnish, Bates, & Pettit, 1997; Lemerise & Arsenio, 2000). A different pathway to aggressive behavior involves more controlled cognitive processing including mechanisms such as consciously activated schemas (Lemerise & Arsenio, 2000; Zelli, Dodge, Lochman, Laird, & Conduct Problems Prevention Research Group, 1999).

Although they are presented separately, the pathways to aggression likely interact. Although the cognitive/schema pathway includes more controlled processing, this processing is still affected by more automatic processes such as emotions. These two pathways can be conceptualized as distinct yet transactional processes leading to aggressive behavior (Lemerise & Arsenio, 2000).

Cognitive/Schema Pathway

Children enter interactions with biological predispositions and a database that includes memories, schemas, and other social knowledge. Social knowledge and schemas, especially beliefs about aggression (e.g., beliefs that aggression is an appropriate response in a situation), are important factors in describing and predicting aggressive behavior. Schemas can operate on both an automatic, nonconscious pathway and on a controlled, conscious pathway (e.g., Huesmann, 1998; Crick & Dodge, 1994). However, this study will examine only a consciously activated schema.

Conscious schemas and beliefs about aggression directly affect children's online social information processing within an interaction (Zelli et al. …

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