Intersections of biology and behavior in young children’s antisocial patterns: The role of development, gender, and socialization

Carolyn Zahn-Waxler, Barbara Usher, Stephen Suomi, Pamela M. Cole

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter

12 Scopus citations


A Biosocial Perspective on Aggression: Problem aggression in young children is viewed as more biologically driven than antisocial patterns that appear in adolescence and thought to be influenced mainly by peer socialization (Moffitt, 1993). Early-onset aggression is more chronic, serious, and linked to long-term maladaptive outcomes. By virtue of disposition or temperament, some young children are more likely than others to behave in ways that reflect disregard for the rights and welfare of others. Several constitutional factors have been implicated in early externalizing problems. These include neuropsychological problems, hyperactivity, and difficult temperament. Different antecedents and outcomes of early versus delayed onset of antisocial behavior have been identified (e.g., Moffitt & Caspi, 2001). Even early-onset aggression has poor parenting correlates, however, suggesting a complex interplay of biological and environmental processes from the start. In this chapter we focus on early-appearing aggression and the ways in which socialization and child sex interact with it to alter forms of expression and developmental course. We consider, as well, early-appearing prosocial behaviors that may deter aggression. We draw on two high-risk longitudinal studies that have benefited from the teachings of Robert Cairns. He and his colleagues have been at the forefront in guiding the development of theories, research designs, and analytic approaches that illuminate bio-social interactions in different species and at different points in human development (Cairns, 1997, 2000; Cairns, Cairns, Neckerman, Ferguson, & Gariépy, 1989; Magnusson & Cairns, 1996).

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationDevelopmental Psychobiology of Aggression
PublisherCambridge University Press
Number of pages20
ISBN (Electronic)9780511499883
ISBN (Print)0521826012, 9780521826013
StatePublished - Jan 1 2005

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • General Psychology


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