Purpose Childhood-onset conduct problems, such as aggressive behavior, are significant factors in academic failure, school violence, juvenile delinquency, drug abuse, and mental illness. Although it is known that aggression in early childhood is associated with inattention, hyperactivity, verbal deficits, and emotional-temperament characteristics such as negative, angry affect, there is little information on how these cognitive and temperament characteristics assort. By determining how these cognitive and temperament attributes associate with one another, it may be possible to design intervention programs to better serve subgroups of aggressive children. We hypothesize that both low verbal ability and a temperament profile with negative mood contribute to the development of aggressive behavior independently from one another. We predict that a subset of children will have low verbal ability with positive/neutral mood, and another subset will have average verbal ability with negative mood.
Methods English-speaking children aged 3 to 5 years with scores on the Aggression subscale of the Achenbach Child Behavior Checklist (CBCL) of 65 or higher were included in the analysis. Cognitive data using the Differential Abilities Scale (DAS) and temperament data using the Carey Behavioral Style Questionnaire have been collected as part of the Village Project Developmental Assessment Team (DAT) with the Sacramento City Unified School District (SCUSD). Bivariate correlational analysis was performed. The temperamental mood variable was the Mood scale of the Carey Behavioral Style Questionnaire. The verbal ability variable was Verbal IQ from the DAS.
Results N = 9. Bivariate correlational analysis of mood compared to verbal ability revealed a non-significant correlation between negative mood and verbal IQ; Pearson correlation coefficient = 0.59 (P = 0.09).
Conclusions This suggests that there may be two subtypes of young, aggressive children: a group of children with low verbal ability with predominantly average to positive mood, and a group of children with average verbal ability with predominantly negative mood. Additional subjects will be included in the analysis, and implications of the findings for the design of intervention programs will be discussed.