Trajectories of aggression from toddlerhood to age 9 predict academic and social functioning through age 12

Susan B. Campbell, Susan Spieker, Margaret Burchinal, Michele D. Poe, Jay Belsky, Cathryn Booth-LaForce, Robert Bradley, Celia A. Brownell, K. Alison Clarke-Stewart, Martha Cox, Sarah L. Friedman, Jean F. Kelly, Bonnie Knoke, Kathleen McCartney, Marion O'Brien, Margaret Tresch Owen, Ross Parke, Robert Pianta, Deborah Lowe Vandell, Marsha Weinraub

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

270 Scopus citations


Background: Using longitudinal data from the NICHD Study of Early Child Care and Youth Development, we examined behavior problems and social and academic outcomes from ages 9 through 12 in children classified into five trajectories of physical aggression, on the basis of maternal ratings obtained from 24 months through 9 years (N = 1195). Methods: Outcome data were obtained from teacher reports, observations of children's behavior, and children's self-reports. Results: Children on the high-stable aggression trajectory (3% of sample) showed the most severe adjustment problems, including poorer social skills, higher levels of externalizing problems, and more self-reported peer problems; those on the moderate-stable aggression trajectory (15%) showed poor regulation and inattention. Although children with moderate levels of early aggression that decreased sharply by school entry (12%) appeared well adjusted at follow-up, those who showed a low level of stable aggression (25%) evidenced some unanticipated social and behavior problems. Children in the contrast group (45%) were consistently very low in aggression from toddlerhood onward. Conclusions: Results highlight links between different patterns (stable or decreasing) and levels (high, moderate, low, very low) of aggression across childhood and children's later adjustment. For example, even quite low aggression that is stable appears to be a risk factor for some social problems; in contrast, moderate aggression that decreases sharply to no aggression by school entry is associated with good adjustment at age 12.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)791-800
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry and Allied Disciplines
Issue number8
StatePublished - Aug 2006
Externally publishedYes


  • Academic functioning
  • Behavior problems
  • Longitudinal studies
  • Middle childhood
  • Social adjustment
  • Trajectories of physical aggression

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pediatrics, Perinatology, and Child Health
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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