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Understanding relational aggression during early childhood: An examination of the association with language and other social and cognitive skills

In two studies, we examined the social and cognitive correlates of relational aggression in preschoolers. Participants were 215 4- to 6-year-olds, recruited from differing socioeconomic regions of a major metropolitan city in Iran. Given the mixed findings in the literature about the association between relational aggression and language, we used latent profile analysis to explore profiles of children with different levels of relational aggression and language skills and examined differences in the children's levels of social and cognitive skills across profiles. Latent profile analysis indicated the presence of three profiles of children: an Adaptive group who had relatively high language skills and low relational aggression, an Expressive group who had relatively high language skills and high relational aggression, and an Inexpressive group with relatively low language skills and low relational aggression. These results were confirmed in a second study with children from varying socio-economic backgrounds. The overall profile shapes were similar in both studies, though the number of children in each profile differed. These differences were explained by referring to the differences in the socio-economic statuses of families. The results also suggested that preschool children who display higher levels of relational aggression and possess more advanced language skills also partially exhibit more highly developed cognitive skills and higher cooperation than their peers. Thus, we conclude that the exhibition of relational aggression in young children is accompanied by relatively high levels of social and cognitive skills. (author abstract)
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