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Executive and social-cognitive functioning in reactive- and proactive-aggressive young boys

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(Dissertation) Ph.D.
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This study tests the hypotheses that: prototype descriptions of Reactive- (RA) and Proactive Aggressive (PA) syndromes will help teacher-raters to discriminate between them; that RA is uniquely associated with Attention, Internalizing and Social Problems; and that inhibitory control and social cognitive processing deficits are related to RA and its associated social problems. Principal Components Analysis of aggression ratings for 210 5- to 8-year-old boys yielded oblique RA and PA Components that were moderately correlated (r = .64) with the prototype items included – overlap that is consistent with prior research and that was not reduced compared with oblique components that lacked the new items (r = .67). Forced orthogonal RA and PA component showed unique or stronger relations for RA with the various outcome variables for a sub-sample of 80 5- to 8-year-old boys in grades K-2, though some of the correlation contrasts for RA vs. PA were not significant. As predicted, (one aspect of) social cognitive and stop task performance were negatively correlated with RA and not PA (though the contrast was not significant), and this relation strengthened with age. Though promising, conclusions are tempered by the limited variance for PA items, overlap between RA and PA components, and the substantial cross-loadings of RA and PA items, which may reflect “real” overlap (and therefore limited clinical utility for the RA/PA distinction), or persistent measurement error. Future research attending to form as well as function of aggression and using observational ratings and/or physiological assessments may evaluate these alternatives.
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