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Children's aggressive behavior in a Head Start sample: Its relation to caregiver psychological and environmental factors and children's attachment representations

The purpose of this study was to investigate caregiver psychological and environmental factors that contribute to parenting attitudes, attachment representations in their children, and subsequent child behavior. Fifty-two caregiver-child dyads participated in the study. Caregiver environmental factors included the perceived availability of social support and satisfaction with social support, measured by the Social Support Questionnaire (SSQ, Sarason, Levine, Basham, & Sarason, 1983). Additionally, life stress was measured using the Schedule of Recent Events (SRE, Daly, 1984). Caregiver psychological well being was assessed using the Brief Symptom Inventory (BSI, Derogatis, 1992). The Six-Year Attachment Doll Play Attachment Classification System (George & Solomon, 1990, 1996, 2000) was used to assess children's attachment representations. Children's aggressive behavior was reported by teachers using the Teacher Rating Scales (TRS, REynokJs & Kamphaus, 1992) and by caregivers using the Child Behavior Checklist (CBCL, Achenbach, 1991). Children's sex did not account for differences in child behavior. The caregiver's cultural background did not account for differences in parenting attitudes. Due to the small number of children classified as secure (N=2), this category was dropped from the analysis. Social support network size, satisfaction with social support, and life stress were not associated with children's attachment representations. Caregiver environmental factors were significant predictors of empathy and role reversal, but were not significant predictors of values related to corporal punishment, inappropriate expectations, or power-independence issues. Parenting attitudes and psychological well being were not associated with children's attachment representations. Children's aggression at home and at school did not vary as a function of attachment representations. The small sample size and the lack of observational data regarding parent-child interaction were limitations of this study. Additionally, the small number of children (N=2) classified as secure made it impossible to understand which factors foster security and the contribution that a secure attachment makes to social adjustment. It also made the comparison between secure and insecure children impossible. Clearly more research needs to be done before any of the results can be considered conclusive. (author abstract)
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United States
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