Linkages between children's beliefs about the legitimacy of aggression and their behavior
The purposes of this study were to learn whether children's beliefs about the legitimacy of aggression can be reliably assessed and whether these beliefs relate to children's everyday social behavior with peers, as well as their responses to hypothetical ambiguous provocation situations. Fourth- and fifth-grade students (n = 781) responded to a 16-item questionnaire designed to measure children's beliefs about the legitimacy of aggression. Children's behavioral orientation was assessed using two methods: (1) children's responses to ten hypothetical situations involving ambiguous provocation, and (2) peer evaluations of children's aggressive, withdrawn, and prosocial behavior. Results indicated that children's beliefs about the legitimacy of aggression were reliably measured. Furthermore, results from both measures of behavioral style showed that children who believed strongly in the legitimacy of aggression were more aggressive, less withdrawn, and less prosocial. The findings suggest that one focus of efforts to decrease children's aggression should be the modification of their beliefs about the legitimacy of aggressive actions.
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