The relationship of emotional competence to levels of aggression in adolescents

Kia Noelle Mills, Fordham University


Individuals who possess greater ability to understand, regulate, and appropriately express emotions or, emotional competence, are better able to navigate through their social environment. Strengthening a child's emotional competence is an essential protective factor for school success and success later in life (Webster-Stratton & Reid, 2004). Therefore, the relationship of emotion regulation and emotion understanding to levels of aggression was evaluated to focus on the existence of skills associated with emotional competence and how such abilities help to limit aggressive behavior. Thirty-nine children were studied in preschool (3–5 years old) and later in adolescents (11–14 years old) using archival data from a longitudinal and cross-sequential design. Measures for preschool and adolescents included child and parent questionnaires, child interviews, and an experiential puppet measure. Preschool children's ability to regulate their emotions was associated with their aggressive behavior in adolescence, which replicated previous research (Blair, Denham, Kochanoff, & Whipple, 2004; Eisenberg, Spinrad, & Eggum, 2010; Rothbart & Sheese, 2007). Specific areas of emotion regulation were identified as having either a positive or a negative relationship to aggressive behavior. Passive coping and venting coping related positively to aggression, whereas certain aspects of effortful control related negatively to aggression. Investigations such as this one lend further support that young children who have higher levels of emotion regulation will tend to exhibit less aggression and acting out behavior in early adolescence. Given the relatively low sample size, this research should be viewed as preliminary work on the effects of emotional competence on aggression. However, the findings have implications for specific areas of intervention with preschool and elementary school children to circumvent aggression in adolescence.

Subject Area

Developmental psychology|Clinical psychology

Recommended Citation

Mills, Kia Noelle, "The relationship of emotional competence to levels of aggression in adolescents" (2011). ETD Collection for Fordham University. AAI3474147.