International Journal of Behavioral Development 2006, 30 (1), 12–19 http://www.sagepublications.


© 2006 The International Society for the Study of Behavioural Development DOI: 10.1177/0165025406059968

Subtypes of aggressive behaviors: A developmental perspective
Frank Vitaro, Mara Brendgen, and Edward D. Barker
University of Montréal, Canada

Aggressive behaviors in children and adolescents have undergone important conceptual and definitional modifications in the past two decades. In particular, subtypes of aggression have been proposed that separate the form and the function of the aggressive behaviors (i.e., social vs. physical aggression; reactive vs. proactive aggression). Moreover, new methodological tools have been developed to examine the developmental course of these subtypes, as well as their correlates. These conceptual and methodological innovations, in turn, have introduced new views of the development of aggressive behaviors. These “new views” contrast with more traditional perspectives about the evolution of aggressive behaviors from infancy to young adulthood, particularly with respect to the existence of individuals who begin to become aggressive by adolescence only. This article gives an overview of these definitional, conceptual, and methodological innovations. It also tries to reconcile different views about the development of aggressive behaviors from infancy through early adulthood. Theoretical and practical/clinical implications are also reviewed. The conclusion describes an integrative framework and identifies possible areas of research for the future.

The aim of this article is to give an overview of the advancements in knowledge and methodology during the past 20 years regarding the subtypes of aggression as defined by form (i.e., physical vs. social aggression) and function (i.e., proactive vs. reactive aggression). As mentioned by Hartup (2005), it is difficult to find an appropriate global definition of aggression. Indeed, the traditional definition of aggression as an act intended to harm others is problematic since it is not sufficiently specific with respect to the topography of the aggressive acts (i.e., form) while, at the same time, it is overly specific, but incomplete, with respect to its goal and intended consequences (i.e., function). In this article, we therefore argue that subtypes of aggressive behavior should be distinguished on the basis of their form and function when examining the developmental trajectories, antecedents, and consequences of aggressive behavior.

these theoretical models is that aggressive behaviors and their underlying risk factors are stable during the course of development. There is indeed empirical evidence based on variable centered analyses showing that aggressive behaviors are relatively stable from childhood to adolescence and beyond (Huesmann, Eron, Lefkowitz, & Walder, 1984; Olweus, 1979).

A person-centered approach of studying aggression
Although the stability estimates of aggression cited above are informative, they suffer from several important limitations (see Nagin & Tremblay, 2001). For example, a high correlation can actually mask a generalized decline or a generalized increase in mean scores even if individuals maintain their respective rank in the distribution. In addition, the customary interpretation of a summary statistic, such as a correlation, is that the magnitude equally applies to all individuals within a given population. However, any given population may be heterogeneous, that is, it may be comprised of distinct clusters of individuals that follow different trajectories (Nagin, 2005). A recently developed methodological tool, semiparametric group-based modeling (SPGB), is a type of person-centered analysis that identifies distinctive clusters of individual trajectories within a population. For each trajectory group, it is possible to define the shape of the trajectory (i.e., increasing, desisting, flat, hump shaped, V shaped, L shaped, etc.) and the proportion of individuals who follow it. Studies using SPGB appear to have found results that contradict claims of stability made by previous studies with respect to aggressive behaviors. For example, in a recent monograph of the Society for Research on Child Development, the authors reported five trajectories based on mother ratings of physical aggression from age 2 through 8 (NICHD, 2004). The mode was that of desistance: A majority of the children (70%)

Developmental course of aggressive behavior – Stability, rise, or decline?
Aggressive behaviors and co-morbid externalizing problems (i.e., disruptiveness, non-compliance, hyperactivity, impulsivity) during childhood have been found to predict a host of adjustment problems such as peer rejection, delinquency, substance abuse, school drop-out, unemployment and depression (Cairns, Cairns, Neckerman, Ferguson, & Gariepy, 1989; Fergusson, Lynskey, & Horwood, 1996; Kokko & Pulkkinen, 2000; Loeber, Farrington, Stouthamer-Loeber, Moffit, & Caspsi, 1998; NICHD, 2004; Panak & Garber, 1992). Comprehensive developmental models have been proposed to illustrate the putative processes through which these predictive links operate (Hay, 2002; Patterson, De Baryshe, & Ramsey, 1989). One important assumption of

Correspondence should be addressed to Frank Vitaro, University of Montréal, 3050 Edouard-Montpetit, Montréal, H3T 1J7, Canada; e-mail:

if one uses narrow scales with a limited number of items that focus entirely on physically aggressive behaviors. but simply change its form. only 28% of the children in a representative Canadian sample followed a low trajectory of physical aggression from ages 17 to 42 months. . How can this new perspective (which may be called the Early Childhood Perspective of Aggression) be reconciled with studies showing adolescencelimited individuals (i. & Kaukiainen. in addition to physical aggression. Indeed. This implies that most children are physically aggressive early on before desisting. for example through social exclusion or rumor spreading (e. Broidy et al.. despite the presence of a minority of children who followed high and relatively stable trajectories (Broidy et al. Put simply. we need to critically examine its empirical and theoretical basis in a broader context than the context of physical aggression. even studies showing a peak in physical aggression during adolescence do not disconfirm the Early Childhood Perspective of Aggression that children generally do not learn to become physically aggressive but rather learn not to be physically aggressive over the course of development. sharply declining trajectory of aggression. however... Contrary to early results based on a variable-centered perspective (i. 1999).. Olweus. suggesting that (a) some factors initially exacerbate children’s propensity for physical aggression during the interval between 17 and 42 months. Conversely.. and drug use (Van Lier. the probability of finding a late onset group may be low. the studies that found a group of Late starters showing aggressive and antisocial behavior only in adolescence used global scales that lumped physical aggression together with other forms of antisocial behavior such as theft. with a peak by age 15 and desistance by early adulthood that would be typical of Late starters). 2005). & Tremblay. studies that focused only on the development of physical aggression during middle childhood and adolescence found no Late starters (Brame. & Tremblay. and uninvolved groups when using global antisocial scores that combine violence. Are there late starters of aggression? The combined findings from the person-centered studies suggest that the developmental course of physical aggression in most children is characterized by an initial increase from the first year of life to the end of the third year. 2003) to conclude that children do not learn to become physically aggressive. slightly declining aggression trajectories. Nagin & Tremblay. instead most children learn not to be physically aggressive under the combined effects of socialization and brain maturation. Sampson & Laub. vandalism. Only a small minority of children seems to exhibit stable and high levels of aggressive behavior. In this study. As such..e. “Late starters”) whose antisocial behaviors follow a hump-shaped curve during adolescence (Moffit. the adolescents who followed this pattern were the ones who already showed the highest levels of physical aggression early on. 1984. & Carlson. 2005). Huesmann et al. 30 (1). (2004) confirmed the notion that. Vitaro. Altogether.. and (b) the decline in physically aggressive behavior from early through middle childhood noted earlier likely begins after this initial rise.g. another 15% of children followed a moderate. truancy. beating up family members. these highly aggressive adolescents were the Early starters (see Brame et al. 1999. sexual assault and so on (Aguilar.e. and by a steady decline thereafter (Hay. if one uses comprehensive scales that include items which. 2006.e. Nagin. 2005). Developmental course of aggressive behavior – From physical to social forms of aggression There is mounting evidence that children’s aggressive behavior incorporates more than the infliction of physical harm. 1992. 1987. All of these studies used ad hoc criteria to define the groups. these observations led Tremblay (2000. 2005. although some of these latter studies reported an increase in physical aggression from early to late adolescence for some participants (i. a small group (3%) of children showed high levels of aggressive behavior that remained stable from age 2 through 8 years. Notably. 1994. 12–19 13 traveled on two low. and 12% of the sample manifested a moderate. but a recent study based on semi-parametric mixture modeling also yielded the typical early. Tremblay & Nagin. Other person-centered studies that assessed children from school entry onward have also found either low levels or desistance of physical aggression to be the norm. Bjoerkqvist. Egeland. Koot. Dickson. 2003. refer to other types of antisocial behavior typical of older children or adolescents (i.. Before endorsing this new developmental paradigm. they are most likely to do so during the first 2 to 3 years after birth. However. Caspi. the observation that physical aggression is low and/or declining in most children does not take into account the possibility that alternative forms of aggression (such as social aggression) may appear by the preschool period and eventually replace physical aggression as a more socially acceptable way to achieve one’s goals or seek revenge. In other words. 1989). if children show physically aggressive behavior.. 1993. Tremblay & Nagin. Patterson et al. at close inspection. In other words. Lagerspetz. Moffitt et al. 2000.. 1996). late.. Finally. begin showing elevated levels of aggressive and disruptive behaviors in early childhood and are likely to persist in these behaviors through adolescence and young adulthood (Moffitt. 2001.INTERNATIONAL JOURNAL OF BEHAVIORAL DEVELOPMENT. 2001). theft. 1979). The strategy to either lump together or to split antisocial behaviors may thus be responsible for the apparent contradictory findings about the existence of Late starters. Quetelet. 1996. vandalism. the findings from the person-centered studies indicate that most children show a steady decline in physically aggressive behavior from early through middle childhood. 2003)? The existence of the late onset/adolescence-limited group may indeed depend on the items and strategies used to identify them. who have been referred to as “Life course persistent/Early starters”. & Stanton. That is. aggressive behavior may not necessarily decline over the course of development. Sroufe. Patterson et al. A recent study by Tremblay et al. school truancy or use of drugs). Silva. Cairns & Cairns. use or sale of drugs. 2003. slightly declining trajectory. 1993. 1989) or with the well-known age-crime curve based on official data that show a peak by mid adolescence in more generalized forms of antisocial behavior (Farrington. The majority followed a trajectory of increasing/moderate aggression (58%) or a trajectory of increasing/high physical aggression (14%). Conversely. 1833. Moffitt. It is important to emphasize that the children following these two trajectories were increasing..e. These children. then one will likely find Late starters. Specifically. there is no indication of a group of low or moderate physically aggressive children that start escalating in levels of physical aggression in preadolescence and adolescence. children can hurt their peers through more subtle forms of aggression. Nagin & Tremblay.

Rose et al. Osterman et al. In support of this notion. Indeed. relational aggression (e. but peer-perceived popularity predicted increased relational aggression. in contrast to developmental perspectives of aggression. Casas. threatening to withdraw friendship). very young children aggress against others primarily through physical means due to a lack of other expressive tools. All three terms refer to the social manipulation of peer relations in order to harm another individual. i.. & Mosher. also includes nonverbal aggressive behavior (e. Nock. When controlling for relational aggression.. goal attainment. in a recent study based on a sample of more than 600 third-. In contrast. Because physical and verbal forms of aggression are socially less acceptable. towards the end of early childhood. 1997. may enable some children to attain personal goals at relatively little personal and interpersonal cost (Hawley & Vaughn. but indirect aggression is mainly covert in nature whereas relational aggression can be both covert (e. According to the Bjoerkqvist et al. ignoring someone or making mean faces).. bowing to their social power. Thus. Olsen. seventh. 2003. / SUBTYPES OF AGGRESSIVE BEHAVIORS Crick. Tremblay et al.g. these forms of aggression are considered by the victims to be as harmful as physical aggression (Crick.. Altogether. at least for some girls and over the short term. this strategy seems to bear fruit. allow them to do so. Similar research reports that physical aggression generally diminishes from early childhood onwards whereas social aggression increases during the same age-range (e. 2003. for older teenage girls. on the other hand. Paquette & Underwood. showing a gradual mean decline of physical aggression from 4 through 11 years of age. specifically indirect aggression (e. and even suicide ideation (Owens. in an effort to defend themselves against attacks from others. other studies show that reactively aggressive The developmental interplay between physical and social aggression A theoretical developmental model that incorporates both physical and social forms of aggression has been proposed by Bjoerkqvist and colleagues (Bjoerkqvist..14 VITARO ET AL.e.and ninth-graders. aged 4 through 11 years. evolutionary theory does not view aggressive behavior as generally maladaptive since it may allow access to physical or psychological resources individuals are competing for with each other (Hawley. 1995). 1999). However. 2001). status. 1998. According to these authors. Lagerspetz. Several other studies have revealed similarly positive links between the use of social – but not physical – aggression and peer ratings of visibility and influence in the peer group. Prinstein & Cillessen.. Further support for the developmental change from physical to social aggression comes from a recent study on 6year-old twins. Rose. we will use these terms interchangeably in the remainder of this article to refer to these forms of aggressive behavior. & Bryant. Why does social aggression increase over time? The observation that aggressive behavior shows a peak of physical aggression in very early childhood and a subsequent decline of physical aggression. Robinson.g. For older teenage boys. Vaillancourt & Hymel. Nelson. the existing results thus suggest that some individuals use social aggression to maintain and/or improve their standing in the peer group and that. Slee. Different labels have been used to describe these more subtle forms of aggression. Oesterman. Willoughby. 2000).. who compared the mean levels of physically aggressive and socially aggressive behavior in a nationally representative sample of Canadian children. Hart. & Kaukiainen. The findings for physical aggression resembled those obtained from the previously mentioned person-centered studies. (2004) explored whether teens use relational aggression in a calculated way to increase their popularity or whether teens who are perceived as popular become more aggressive because their schoolmates. As verbal and social cognitive skills evolve. depression. In a related vein...g. and fared even better in terms of emotion regulation abilities.through to ninth-graders that youth who rated themselves as highly instrumentally aggressive – but not reactively aggressive – did not differ from their more normative peers in regard to self-concept or academic adjustment. 2003. 2005). a growing body of research suggests that aggressive behavior. the link between overt aggression and peer-perceived popularity disappeared. 1996. & Kaukiainen. and social aggression (e. model (Bjoerkqvist. Indirect support for the shift in aggressive strategies comes from a study by Tremblay (1999). aggressive behavior only seems to be related to psychological or social gains if used in a planful way. Jones. especially among adolescents (Cillessen & Mayeux. Little. In contrast. spreading rumors) and overt (e. Lagerspetz.and ninth-graders. 1992). Kupersmidt. Cairns et al. & Hawley (2003) showed in a sample of 1723 fifth.g. Swenson. youth who used aggression also or mainly in a reactive way.. but rather learn to gradually replace physical aggression with more subtle strategies of attack. whose aggressiveness was rated by their kindergarten teachers as well as by their classmates (Brendgen et al. however. showed considerable frustration intolerance and a significantly lower academic achievement record. with a range of negative effects including anxiety. For the sake of simplicity. the positive relations between relational aggression and perceived popularity over a 6-month period were bi-directional. 241). Crick & Grotpeter. Bjoerkqvist. Bjorkqvist. 1998. and Waller (2004) found that both overt and relational aggression were positively related to peer-perceived popularity among the seventh. 1992.g. 1992). 2003). fifth-.g. & Shute.. begs the question whether this developmental trajectory can be considered normative and perhaps – at least in some circumstances – even be adaptive. Galen & Underwood. relational aggression did not predict increases in peer-perceived popularity. & Kaukiainen. These authors found that. and because social aggression can be as damaging with much less risk of retribution. 1992). but not the other way around. Brauner. children would thus not so much learn not to use aggressive behavior. & Howes. encompasses both overt and covert behaviors and. Lagerspetz. children begin to use verbal aggression and finally. Bigbee. Hawley. accompanied by a gradual increase in social aggression. in addition. p. In contrast. & McNeilly-Choque. when controlling for overt aggression. & Kaukiainen. especially the more covert strategies that are part of social aggression. Notably...g. In line with evolutionary theory. social aggression eventually becomes the primary strategy. 2004). 1999). dominance) or losses” (Hawley & Vaughn. 1997). 1996). The findings from that study showed that high levels of physical aggression led to high levels of social aggression. This led some scholars to conclude “that it is not so much aggression per se that is adaptive or maladaptive but rather it is the specific functions of aggression that are associated with some proximal gains (e. add social aggression to their repertoire. social aggression gradually increased over the same developmental period. 2004.g. . relational aggression still predicted popularity. 1989. Social aggression. however.

& Tarter. Bartini. the distinction between reactive and proactive has received considerable support over the past decade. Dodge & Coie. & Melloni. Henrich. Miller.. Do they have generally common origins but follow distinct developmental trajectories. 1997.INTERNATIONAL JOURNAL OF BEHAVIORAL DEVELOPMENT. researchers have emphasized the distinction between two types of aggressive behavior – reactive and proactive – on the basis of their underlying function or motivation (e. instrumentally) aggressive children (Alvarez & Olson. & Pettit. Specifically. In support of this model. proactive aggression has been found to be positively related to positive outcome expectations and self-efficacy about aggression (Crick & Dodge. 1983). support for a specific temperamental and perhaps even biological basis of proactive aggression comes from research on psychopathic characteristics – especially callous-unemotional traits – among youth. Dodge et al. 1997). & Bosch. 2000a.. & Brooks.g. 1997). 1989. 1998.. 1962. Finally. Conversely. 1973. & Hawley. Etiology of proactive and reactive aggression The conceptual and methodological distinctiveness of proactive and reactive aggression has highlighted the need for a better understanding of the etiology of these two types of aggressive behavior. “emotional”. Harnish. reactively – but not proactively – aggressive children showed elevated levels of skin conductance and angry non-verbal responses during stress (Hubbard et al. 2000b). threatening and unpredictable environment or abusive and cold parenting. proactive aggression thrives in supportive environments that foster the use of aggression as a mean to achieve one’s goals. failure to show empathy. These problems in reactively aggressive children may actually reflect low verbal intelligence and deficits in executive cognitive functioning (Connor et al. 1992. Buss. Salmivalli & Nieminen. proactively aggressive children are well accepted by peers and have more friends than reactively aggressive children (Poulin & Boivin. 2002). 1996. Doob. Schippell. In contrast. Price & Dodge. and “coldblooded” aggression. and how they are related to children’s subsequent psychosocial adjustment. Dodge & Coie.. 2003. “instrumental”. which postulates that aggression is an acquired behavior governed by reinforcement contingencies. Schwartz et al. Callous-unemotional traits refer to a specific affective (e. Smithmyer. Jones. 1961. Despite some notable opposition (Bushman & Anderson. Kirisci. Moss. Vasey. Its main goal is to react to the anger–frustration stimulus and hurt the perpetrator of the provocation or the threat. This empirical evidence counterbalances the overlap between the two types of aggressive behaviors as indexed by their high correlation (i. Dodge et al. 1964). & Paul. Veerman.70) and by the difficulty in identifying “pure” reactively and “pure” proactively aggressive individuals. it is rather immediate and impulsive in response to the source of provocation or threat.. 1989. Dodge et al. These findings suggest that we need to examine not only the different forms of aggression (i.g. 2001).e. Hubbard.g.g. For example. Orobio de Castro. Poulin & Boivin. Dollard. as seems to be the case for physical and social aggression? Or do they spring from different causes yet follow similar developmental trajectories? To address this question. The functions of aggressive behavior: Reactive versus proactive aggression For several decades. Day et al. They may also reflect low thresholds for emotional responding to threats or provocations. Steingard. 1987. “hot-blooded”. Price & Dodge.. The concept of proactive aggression is more in line with the social learning model of aggression (Bandura. Pellegrini. 2003. Reactive aggression thus occurs as a consequence of antecedent conditions of real or perceived provocation. 2003). 1987.. According to this notion. frustration.. 1997. Synonyms for proactive aggression are “offensive”. 1997.. 2002. this model postulates that reactive aggression develops in reaction to a harsh. 1997. Day. 30 (1). how they develop. Berkowitz. reactively aggressive youth show histories of physical abuse whereas proactively only and proactively–reactively aggressive individuals do not (Dodge et al. Vitaro. It is also positively related to the presence of similarly proactively aggressive friends and to friendship quality (Poulin & Boivin. 2000b). 1939). 1993.. & Monshouwer. reactive – but not proactive – aggression is associated with a temperamental disposition toward anxiety. 1987). In contrast. and inattention (Dodge & Coie. & Sears. For example.. or threat and is usually accompanied by the expression of anger. & Simons. 2006. 1999. 1996. Lochman. & Bretveld.e. 2003. 2002). Koops. around . In contrast. Bosch. proactive aggression is thought to be driven by the anticipated rewards that follow the perpetration of aggressive acts. 1993.. “impulsive”. The concept of reactive aggression has its roots in the frustration–anger theory of aggression (e. Dodge. Dodge et al. 2005. 1998. Martin. Poulin & Boivin. 1996. 2000a. Shields & Cicchetti. 1996). Cravens-Brown.. 1999. 2002). Veerman. 12–19 15 children are more rejected and more victimized by their peers and have fewer friends than the non-aggressive and the proactively (i. It is thus perhaps not surprising that reactive – but not proactive – aggression is also related to problems in cognitive and social-cognitive functioning (Crick & Dodge. Bream. Giancola. “angry”. Koops. constricted display of emotion) and interpersonal (e. 1992. social) but also the different functions of aggression.. Bates. 2003). proactive aggression seems to be preceded by exposure to aggressive role models in the family that value the use of aggression to resolve conflict or advance personal interests (Connor. Little. two indicators of peer support for the use of proactive aggression.e. Dodge (1991) proposed a theoretical model according to which reactive and proactive aggression originate from different social experiences and develop independently. Prinstein & Cillessen. Brendgen & Tremblay. Although clear physiological correlates specific to proactive aggression have not yet been reported in children. Anderson. emotional disregulation. Notably. absence of guilt. use of others for . 2000). and “retaliatory” aggression (Berkowitz. There are also indications that proactive and reactive aggression may not only be fostered by different social environmental influences but also have different temperamental – and thus presumably genetic – underpinnings.. reactive aggression can be used as a synonym for “defensive”. proactive aggression can be used as an instrumental means to secure goods from others or to dominate others. Conceptually. physical vs. For example. Fesbach. Merk. Exploratory and confirmatory factor analyses yielded two distinct factors in line with the reactive–proactive dichotomy (Crick & Dodge. angry reactivity. Mowrer. Orobio de Castro. reactive aggression has been found to be linked to hostile attributional biases and deficits in problem-solving strategies..

These speculations. such scales will also allow the examination of joint developmental trajectories that combine the forms (i. It is in turn possible. 1998). Tremblay. Dodge. In consequence. Loney. if complementary.16 VITARO ET AL. proactive) use of relational aggression specifically may be related to very different interpersonal (and perhaps also personal) outcomes than the use of either reactive or proactive physical aggression (Hawley. Bodin. 2003). There are. 2003). because of support from family and peers for the use of proactive aggression to solve conflicts and to gain access to resources. if supported. “gets other children to gang up on a peer”. Based on these measures. 1996). since the more covert. proactive and reactive aggression are basically uncorrelated (Little et al. The joint consideration of form and function of aggression may thus help clarify the distinct developmental outcomes found for proactive and reactive aggression as measured with the Dodge and Coie items. reactively aggressive children have been found to be more at risk for depression. Cornell et al. whereas proactive aggression does not predict subsequent reactive aggression (Lansford. & Dane. trajectories of proactive and reactive aggression from early childhood through adolescence will eventually allow a more conclusive picture about the development of these two types of aggression. & Kerlin. proactively aggressive children have been found to be more at risk for concurrent and later delinquent behaviors.. either because the studies were based on cross-sectional data or because they have pooled multiple data points. & Lavoie. which have focused on physical rather than on social aggression. 1991). substance abuse. the instruments used in previous research to assess proactive and reactive aggression.e. 2002). Pulkkinen. which heavily focus on physical aggression. Indeed. which is markedly distinct from the previously mentioned physiological correlates observed for reactive aggression.. that an increase with age in self-regulatory capabilities in children and a parallel increase of social pressure to inhibit temper tantrums and public expression of anger may foster a general decline in reactive aggression by the end of childhood and throughout adolescence.. Barry. 1996) and children (Frick. / SUBTYPES OF AGGRESSIVE BEHAVIORS one’s own gain) style that is related specifically to proactive – but not reactive – aggression in both adults (Cornell et al. Moreover. at least for a small group of individuals. however. Tremblay. we can conclude that the developmental patterns of physical and social aggression are quite distinct. This latter point is especially critical in light of suggestions that the premeditated (i. Fisher & Blair. however. 1996. the developmental trajectories of the two types of aggression remain as yet unknown since the majority of prior studies have not longitudinally modeled the two types of aggression. instrumental way to obtain personal and interpersonal goals show similarly delinquent adjustment outcomes as those obtained for proactively (and presumably mainly physically) aggressive individuals in previous studies. This temperamental style is characterized physiologically by underreactivity in the sympathetic nervous system (Kagan & Snidman. Pettit. Clements. Gendreau. have consistently produced an extremely high correlation between the two types of aggression. no study so far has attempted to disentangle these factors. circuitous strategies often associated with social aggression may involve more often careful planning in order to avoid detection by the victim. would suggest that it is reactive aggression that is driving the downward trend in physical aggression by the end of the preschool period and beyond. 1999. A word of caution may also be warranted in this context. 2000. Vitaro et al.. However.. for more details). & Oligny. the traditionally used measures of proactive and reactive aggression may not be suitable to detect any potentially distinct longitudinal course of the two types of aggression and any attempt in this regard will thus require the use of scales that are able to take into account form as well as function. 2002. i.e.e.. Ellis. Vitaro. such as physical aggression. In contrast.. proactive and reactive) of aggression. and conduct disorders (Connor et al. reactive and proactive aggression may become more and more differentiated over time. An integrated perspective of aggression and its methdological and clinical implications Our reflections regarding the developmental course of proactive and reactive aggression remain highly speculative at this point. It remains to be seen. 2001. 2005. a close examination of the Dodge and Coie (1987) items for proactive aggression suggests that this type of aggression may have developmental links with relational aggression. Importantly. & Bates. 2003. As mentioned previously. These results suggest that. 2003) and are less sensitive to cues of punishment when a rewardoriented response set is primed (Barry et al. physical and relational) with the functions (i. 2003).. Vitaro. Frick. the development of proactive aggression may more closely follow that of social aggression.. 1998).. In contrast. but also for violence in close dyadic contexts such as romantic relationships (Brendgen. Only future longitudinal studies that map individual Need for differential interventions Based on the previously discussed findings. whether individuals who early on desist from physical aggression and who learn to exclusively use social aggression in a planned. if one takes into account any confounds between proactive and reactive aggression that might be due to a similar form of aggression. It is possible that even individuals who are prone to use social – but not physical – aggression mainly in a reactive manner are at similar risk of depressed mood and of problem behavior in romantic relationships such as jealousy-driven psychological blackmailing of the partner. and that these patterns may differ further depending on whether children tend to show more reactive or more proactive aggression . reactive aggression may precede proactive aggression and that the two types of aggression may follow distinct developmental trajectories (see Vitaro & Brendgen. In contrast. Developmental course of reactive and proactive aggression Apart from the circumstantial evidence described previously that proactive and reactive aggression may be fostered by different temperamental and environmental factors. Temperamentally aggressive children with callousunemotional traits are less reactive than other aggressive children to threatening and emotionally distressing stimuli (Blair. although entirely speculative at this moment.e. developmentally. Cornell. As such. high levels of proactive aggression could remain stable and even increase during adolescence. some indications that reactive aggression in one year is predictive of proactive aggression in the next over a period of several years throughout childhood.

A. the use of medication such as methylphenidate could also have positive effects (Kempes. 293–304. R. Englewood Cliffs. Aggressive Behavior. K. (2001). T. & Melloni. Klein et al. (2000). such experimental studies would complement longitudinal studies assessing the development of both form and function of aggression from infancy throughout late adolescence that allow modeling their separate and joint trajectories and examine their unique and joint etiological risk factors. Of mice and women: Aspects of female aggression (pp. Brendgen. Frick. children who are both reactively and proactively aggressive (indeed the majority) should benefit from a combination of these specific interventions. July. 273–279.A. J. DC: American Psychological Association Press. A. 109–132. Washington. The relation between proactive and reactive aggression and peer social status in preschool children.M. albeit without specific consideration of different forms of aggression. Niemelae (Eds. D. A.J.. Ellis.J. K. L...A. References Aguilar. R.S. 3–20).H. Children in the proactive-instrumental manipulation condition learned to recognize domineering behavior and to think about the positive consequences of using non-aggressive behaviors. Neckerman.. (2004). de Vries. differential intervention strategies may be needed depending on the specific aggression profile of the child.). Examining genetic and environmental effects on social aggression: A study of 6-year-old twins. A. cross-national study.. A. Bushman B. (1989). and to relax and focus attention when angry. Aggression: A social psychological analysis.INTERNATIONAL JOURNAL OF BEHAVIORAL DEVELOPMENT. These children might also benefit from social cognitive restructuring about the negative consequences of their aggressive acts for themselves. 117–127. Bates.E. CA: Academic Press.. 29. In R. On the other hand. Nagin. consequences.. 222–245.S. R. Tremblay. Vitaro. 12.G. Steingard. 1997). Do girls manipulate and boys fight? Developmental trends in regard to direct and indirect aggression. & Kaukiainen. H. F.. The children in the reactiveanger management group were trained to recognize angry feelings.A. Children’s peer relations: From development to intervention (pp.E.. F. Nagin.J. NJ: Prentice-Hall. & Lavoie. 42. Boivin. DeShazo.). Cairns. 30 (1).J. & Anderson C. G. Dodge (Eds. 503–512. Cairns. R. (1983). Developmental trajectories of childhood disruptive behaviors and adolescent delinquency: A six-site.. Cairns. 6.B. Development and Psychopathology.R. In J. & Olson. Kupersmidt & K. & Tremblay. B. Broidy. M.. B. and control. R. B. K.. McCoy. (2001). B. For example.. (1961). These interventions can indeed be seen as experimental manipulations of specific presumably causal factors. on the form of aggression they primarily use (i. However. Growth and aggression: 1. 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