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OP-3.1.-Social Cognition and Aggression in the Head Start Classroom: Implications for Prevention

Giles, J.W. and Heyman, G.D.
University of California at San Diego, La Jolla, California, USA

The nature of children's thought processes has become an increasingly salient issue in the study of the development of aggressive behavior.  Literature is reviewed that suggests that social cognition plays a mediating role in the relationship between early risk factors for aggression and subsequent social behavior.  This study attempts to evaluate the relationship between social cognition and aggression among high-risk low-income preschoolers, specifically investigating the relationship between trait inference, attribution, social problem solving skills and social perspective-taking skills, and classroom aggression.  Subjects in this study were 100 children enrolled in Head Start preschools in San Diego County (50 boys, 50 girls, mean age 4.6 years).  Subjects were individually presented with several vignettes in which story characters committed ambiguous moral transgressions, either against the subject or against a peer; transgressions presented varied, within-subjects, in severity of outcome and in the degree to which they were intended.  Subjects were asked to evaluate the severity of each act, why they thought it had occurred, and the extent to which it was indicative of an underlying trait of the actor. When ambiguous moral transgressions were committed against the subject, children who were rated as highly aggressive by their teachers (as measured on the Daycare Provider Form of the Achenbach Child Behavior Checklist) consistently reported that acts were more severe and more indicate of hostile intent on the part of the actor.  Furthermore, children rated as highly aggressive by their teachers were more likely than their peers to endorse aggressive behavior as an acceptable solution to transgressions.  Teacher reports of aggressiveness also correlated with low child self-ratings of competence in social situations, an inability to generate nonviolent solutions to social problems, and an inability to take the perspective of another child. These results suggest that the prevention of classroom behavior problems and the development of prevention curricula may be augmented by a consideration of the role of social cognition in aggressive behavior in preschool children. 

OP-3.2.-Changes in school playground and aggressive behaviour reduction

Rebolo-Marques, A.,  Neto*, C. and  Oliveira Pereira**, B.
Escola Básica Integrada da Quinta do Conde (Sesimbra)
*Faculdade de Motricidade Humana, Universidade Técnica de Lisboa, Portugal
**Instituto de Estudos da Criança, Universidade do Minho, Portugal

The high level of aggression between the children in the school playground during recess time (Olweus, 1993; Whitney & Smith, 1993; Pereira, 1997) raises doubts concerning its importance as time of freedom, socialisation and formation. To check up how playground variation promotes or reduces aggressive behaviour and a greater or lower victimisation level, four types of playgrounds were tested in a primary school during four consecutive weeks: empty playground, supervised playground, playground with materials, playground with supervisor and materials. At the end of every week (on Friday) children from 2º, 3º and 4º grade (n=112) answer an anonymous inquiry about the conflicts they felt in the playground and their representations of every type of playground. After the experience the children answer another anonymous inquiry about their favourite playground and their representations of the different playgrounds. The data collected after the empty playground week show that many students participate in incidents during recess as aggressors, victims or observers. Only about 50% of the victims tells the teacher about the problems, they are afraid of retaliations. The data collected after every period in a different space, show that the introduction of the supervisor in the playground is important specially for the children that usually stay alone during recess but the victimisation levels are very similar to the ones of the empty playground week. Only in the playgrounds with materials (with or without supervisor) the aggression and victimisation levels are significantly different (lower) from the levels found in the empty playground. The children’s representations of every playground are very positive, it’s important to refer the weight that is given to “play with friends” (near 75%) and “play different things” (41% to 53%). The highest values in these categories can be found in playground with supervision and materials which is also the favourite among most of the students (61%). The objects had a positive influence in the student occupation and their union around common goals, games and plays, and the active supervision makes the adult a precious helper in conflict, in learning and organising situations. 

OP-3.3.-Mindfulness project to develop stress management skills in third and fourth grade students

Napoli, M.
Arizona State University College of Public Programs, School of Social Work, Tempe, Arizona, USA

The proposed project is designed to evaluate the effectiveness of a 25-week program that teaches third and fourth grade students mindfulness techniques. Mindfulness is defined as the student's ability to keep his/her attention in the present moment-to focus on "what I am doing now?" The ability to focus, notice what is happening at the moment without judgement can facilitate children’s’ ability to respond rather than react to situations.   Students will be taught the following mindfulness techniques: breathing exercises, creative visualization, body movement, stretches, storytelling and art. Building skills through mindful activities allow teachers and students to utilize them in the classroom, a place where children spend the most active time of their day. Results during the academic year 1996-7 of third and fifth grade students respectively using these mindful techniques indicated that: (81% &86%) enjoyed participating in the classes; (67% & 67%) enjoyed the yoga; (48% & 70%) enjoyed the breathing exercises; (86% & 83%) enjoyed the guided imagery; (62% & 63%) felt more relaxed after the classes; (52% &41%) used some of the techniques at home; (90% &86%) would have liked more classes and (86% &86%) would have liked the teacher to use some of the exercises during the school year.  Results of the data received from September to December 1999 of the third and fourth grade students respectively indicate that that the children used the skills outside of the mindfulness classes. The students reported: (96%& 96%) used the breathing techniques (69% & 81%) used the mindfulness skills and (81% & 63%) used the yoga.  The number of times the third and fourth grade students used these skills during that time were: sports  (44&50); emotional relaxation (20 & 22); physical relaxation (16 & 12); at home (3 & 22); at school (11 &16); other mood stabilizer (1& 10); and anger management (0 & 7). Due to the decreasing availability of nurturing adults, children have turned to activities like computer games and television for companionship, which often model violence and aggression.  It is the goal of this project to have children who are well equipped to deal with daily stressors in school and in the home. The proposed pilot project lays foundations for a viable, long-term research project.

OP-3.4.-Interventions to Redress Teenage Girls' Indirect Aggression: A Speculative Paper

Owens, L.
School of Special Education and Disability Studies, Flinders University of South Australia,
Adelaide, South Australia

Because males have been considered the more aggressive sex, interventions have been mainly concerned with male aggression. Over the past dozen years, however, a form of aggression more typical of girls has been identified and described. This aggression has been termed indirect and typical examples include spreading rumours about others and exclusion from the peer group. Previous research has concluded that girls indulge in indirect aggression because of the nature of their friendship groups - membership of the group and close personal relationships are vitally important to girls so indirect or social forms of aggression are particularly effective in hurting or harming peers. Previous research, too, has shown that indirect aggression is very painful to the girl victims. Yet unlike the typical male forms of direct aggression, there has been very little research into how to prevent or intervene to reduce indirect aggression among girls. In an earlier study, the author found that teenage girls were sceptical about existing school based interventions. Speculations can be made about the types of interventions that may be successful, drawing upon a range of possible approaches from the existing literature on more overt forms of aggression, including bullying. These include whole school approaches, the no blame approach, the method of shared concern, peer counselling, peer mediation, and systems thinking. The last of these is a rejection of traditional individual approaches in psychology and education which seek to identify an aggressor or victim and remediate deficits in, for example, thinking patterns or social skills. Instead, the indirect aggression "problem" is seen to reside within relationships and interactions within the whole school or community system and requires overarching systemic responses. Interventions need to take account of the explanations for indirect aggression and in particular the nature of teenage girls' friendship groups. Paradoxically, the group and friendship processes which are the context for girls' indirect aggression may also be a source of strength to girls in resolving their conflicts.