Category: ADHD - Child
Objective.A two-factor structure of aggression composed of proactive and reactive aggression has emerged in the literature (Poulin & Boivin, 2000). Proactive aggression (PA) consists of willfully planned acts of aggression to serve a goal. Reactive aggression (RA) occurs as a reaction to external or emotional stimuli or threats (Waschbusch, Willoughby, & Pelham, 1998). PA emerged from social learning theory, while RA is prominent in the emotion regulation literature (Dodge & Coie, 1987). Children with ADHD demonstrate higher levels of aggressive behavior than their typically-developing peers. However, the underlying predictors of aggressive behavior in children with and without ADHD are unclear. Therefore, the present study examines the relationship between RA, PA, ADHD and emotion regulation.
Methods. 43 children without ADHD and 53 children with ADHD ages 8 – 12 and their parents completed the Reactive and Proactive Aggression Questionnaire (RPAQ; Raine et al., 2006) at baseline and follow-up lab visits. Parents completed the Positive and Negative Affect Scale (PANAS-PR; Phillips, Lonigan, Driscoll, & Hooe, 2002) 3 times a day for 28 days as part of an EMA protocol.
Results. Hierarchical regressions were conducted to examine the relationships between ADHD and emotional lability with RA and PA at baseline and follow-up. Age, gender, and ADHD medication use were entered into the first step of the model to control for factors known to be related to ADHD (Connor et al., 2003; Abikoff et al., 2002; Stangler et al., 1997). In follow-up analyses, baseline RPAQ measurements were added in the first step to control for baseline measurements. ADHD and emotional lability were added into the second step of the models to assess for main effects. An ADHD by emotional lability term was added to the final step to assess for a moderation effect. Results indicated that emotional lability, but not ADHD, significantly estimated RA at baseline (β = .326, p = .001) and follow-up (β = .272, p = .017). Conversely, ADHD, but not emotional lability, significantly estimates PA at baseline (β = .250, p = .040). No significant predictors of PA occurred at follow-up.
Conclusions. Children with ADHD frequently demonstrate reactive and proactive aggression. However, results indicate that the emotional lability may better predict reactive aggression than ADHD diagnostic status alone. Therefore, future research should differentiate between the subset of children with and without emotional lability. Results further suggest that emotionally labile children continue to grow more reactively aggressive over time. Future research should examine other facets of emotion regulation to further understand the influence of emotion regulation on aggression.
Kelly Slaughter– Graduate Student, University of Louisville, Louisville, Kentucky
Nicholas Fogleman– Graduate Student, University of Louisville, Louisville, Kentucky
Kirsten Leaberry– Graduate Student, University of Louisville
Danielle Walerius– Graduate Student, University of Louisville
Paul Rosen– Associate Professor of Psychology, University of Louisville