Reactive aggression among maltreated children: the contributions of attention and emotion dysregulation.

A. Shields, D. Cicchetti

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

473 Scopus citations


Examined the complex interplay among emotion, attention, and aggression in a sample of 141 maltreated and 87 non-maltreated impoverished, inner-city children. Data were collected during a summer day camp, which provided an ecologically valid setting for studying children's behavior in social contexts. Maltreated children were more likely than non-maltreated children to be aggressive, with findings suggesting that physically abused children were at heightened risk for reactive aggression. Maltreated children also evidenced attention deficits, and subclinical or nonpathological dissociation was more likely among children who had experienced physical or sexual abuse. A history of abuse also predicted emotion dysregulation, affective lability/negativity, and socially inappropriate emotion expressions. This emotion dysregulation, fostered by poor attention modulation, was a mechanism of the effects of maltreatment on reactive aggression.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)381-395
Number of pages15
JournalJournal of clinical child psychology
Issue number4
StatePublished - Dec 1998
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This work was supported by grants from the William T. Grant Foundation, Inc., the National Center for Child Abuse and Neglect, and the Spunk Fund, Inc. In addition, Ann Shields received support from aNational Research Service Award granted to the Human Motivation Program at the University of Rochester by the National Institute of Mental Health (MH18922). We thank Michael Lynch, PhD, and Robin Sturm, MA, for their help with implementing this project. In addition, we thank the children and families for their participation in this research. Requests forreprints should be sent to Ann Shields, who is now at the Department of Psychology, University of Michigan, 525 East U~versityA, nn Arbor, MI 48109, or to Dante acchetti, Mt. Hope Family Center, 187 Edinburgh Street, Rochester, NY 14608.


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