American University
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posted on 2023-08-04, 14:06 authored by Denise Yvette White

The seemingly inappropriate aggressive responses of some children to apparently benign stimuli have been examined from various perspectives. Researchers have found, in aggressive boys, an attributional bias to infer hostility to varying classes of social stimuli. This tendency of boys to respond aggressively varies with (a) how ambiguous stimuli are on the accidental/intentional dimension and (b) what boys expect their peers' intentions to be (hostile or not). Researchers have hypothesized that a response cycle of aggression, retaliation, and expectancy of further aggression results in aggressive boys' biased judgments of others' intentions. Research in this area has focussed almost exclusively on boys. However studies of sex differences in aggression suggest that similar mechanisms operate for both sexes but manifest themselves differently. Girls are more likely to engage in verbal aggression or in indirect aggression rather than physical aggression. The subject selection and evaluation materials used in previous research have focussed on physical acts as the primary determinates of aggressive behavior. In the present study the sociometric questions, teacher-rating scale, and dependent measures were formulated to measure both verbal and physical aggression. In the present study a puzzle completion task, with a negative, frustrating outcome, was used to examine attributional biases in aggressive girls. This task was previously utilized, with boys, by Dodge (1980). Expectancy of peers' intentions was manipulated to exposing subjects to an actual negative outcome, seemingly instigated by an unknown peer, under one of three conditions (intentional, accidental or ambiguous). Subjects were then exposed to the ambiguous, frustrating outcome of the puzzle completion task. Aggressive girls were found to make significantly more hostile attributions than nonaggressive girls in the accidental and ambiguous condition. As expected, the verbal and indirect measures were more potent in assessing hostility than the physical measure of aggressive behavior. Aggressive girls were also found to make attributions based on their expectancy of peers' hostility, to form such expectations on the basis of little information, and to apply those expectations to an ambiguous event.



American University




Ph.D. American University 1984.


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