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Journal Article


Huesmann LR, Eron LD, Lefkowitz MM, Walder LO. Dev. Psychol. 1984; 20(6): 1120-1134.


(Copyright © 1984, American Psychological Association)






In a study spanning 22 years, data were collected on the aggressiveness of over 600 subjects, their parents, and their children. Subjects who were the more aggressive 8-year-olds at the beginning of the study were discovered to be the more aggressive 30-year-olds at the end of the study. The stability of aggressive behavior was shown to be very similar to the stability of intellectual competence, especially for males. Early aggressiveness was predictive of later serious antisocial behavior, including criminal behavior, spouse abuse, traffic violations, and self-reported physical aggression. Furthermore, the stability of aggression across generations within a family when measured at comparable ages was even higher than the within individual stability across ages. It is concluded that, whatever its causes, aggression can be viewed as a persistent trait that may be influenced by situational variables but possesses substantial cross-situational constancy. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2012 APA, all rights reserved)

VioLit summary:

The purpose of this research by Huesmann et al. was to examine the stability of aggressiveness over a 22 year period.

This research utilized a quasi-experimental longitudinal design on an original sample of 870 third-graders from Columbia County, NY. The children were tested in their classrooms and approximately 75% of their parents were interviewed. 10 years later 427 of the original sample were retested. Another 10 years later 409 of the original sample were tested. The authors defined aggression as an act whose goal response is injury to an organism or organism surrogate. In 1960, the first wave, the researchers measured aggression using a technique developed by Eron and colleagues, which was the peer nomination index of aggression. From the responses of a sample of his or her peers a child's aggression score was determined. The procedure consisted of having all the children nominate as many children in the sample who exhibited a specific aggressive behavior. The score was the percentage of times a child was named on 10 aggression items out of the potential number of times he or she could have been nominated. This scale has an internal reliability of alpha=.96. An IQ score was obtained for each child using the California Test of Mental Maturity. Subjects' parents' aggression was also measured using a self-report questionnair which showed the severity of punishment the parents would use in response to the aggressive actions used in the children's scale. In 1982 aggression of subjects was measured by self ratings, citations of offenses by New York State Division of Criminal Justice and Traffic, and ratings of subject by spouse. Self-ratings used the sum of Minnesota Multi-phasic Personality Inventory (MMPI) scales F, 4, and 9, and the subject's report of committing physical aggression against spouse Criminal justice scores were defined as the total number of convictions in New York state in the past 10 years and ratings of seriousness of the offenses. Number of moving traffic violations and number of convictions for driving under the influence were also measures used. Spousal ratings were reports of aggressiv behavior toward spouse by subject. For subjects who now had children, a rating of severity of punishment was measured using the same scale given to their parents. To measure their intellectual competence all subjects and children took the Wide Range Achievement Test. Computerized interviews were done as were mail and telephone surveys. Some measures could not be taken using telephone or mail and were dropped for those samples. Children and spouses were not interviewed by mail. Longitudinal correlations of aggression within individuals were calculated Path analysis was used to examine data. The parameters of the model were estimated with the Lisrel program.

Those males who were not interviewed again in 1981 had a significantly higher mean aggression score in 1960 than those who were interviewed. Male subjects had significantly higher aggression scores than females. Correlations of peer-nominated aggression at age 8 with aggression at age 30 showed these significant relationships between measures; MMPI scales F+4+9, spouse abuse, criminal justice convictions, seriousness of criminal offenses, moving traffic violations, driving while intoxicated, self-rating of physical aggression. These correlations were taken as the lower bounds for the stability of aggression because of the limited reliability of some of the measures, higher mean aggression scores of males who weren't retested, distribution of some to the scales were highly positively skewed,and the correlation as a measure of stability underweighted the concentration of scores at the low end and emphasized extreme scores. When groups of high and low aggressive 8 year olds were compared on their adult behaviors it showed a demonstration of the stability of violence that was less sensitive to the above biases. The male high aggression group scored significantly higher than the low group on these measures; MMPI scales F+4+9, punishment of children, criminal convictions, seriousness of criminal offenses, moving traffic violations, and on drunk driving. The high aggression female group scored significantly higher on MMPI F+4+9, punishment, and criminality, compared with the low female group. Stability of aggression was found independent of relation between IQ and aggression. Stability of aggression seemed to increase with age. Aggression was more stable in males than females overall. Aggressive behavior once developed remained stable across time, situation, and generations within a family. The paths tested were found to be insignificant.

(CSPV Abstract - Copyright © 1992-2007 by the Center for the Study and Prevention of Violence, Institute of Behavioral Science, Regents of the University of Colorado)

KW - 1960s
KW - 1970s
KW - 1980s
KW - New York
KW - Life Course
KW - Middle Childhood
KW - Late Childhood
KW - Late Adolescence
KW - Early Adolescence
KW - Child Aggression
KW - Juvenile Aggression
KW - Adult Aggression
KW - Aggression Effects
KW - Adult Crime
KW - Adult Offender
KW - Adult Violence
KW - Crime Predictors
KW - Crime Causes
KW - Violence Predictors
KW - Violence Causes
KW - Aggression and Subsequent Crime and Violence
KW - Child Development
KW - Juvenile Development
KW - Youth Development
KW - Longitudinal Studies


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