Acting nasty in the face of failure? Longitudinal observations of "hard-to-manage" children playing a rigged competitive game with a friend

C Hughes, A L Cutting, J Dunn

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

39 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

Peer problems are almost universal among children with disruptive behavior disorders, and have been linked to social information processing deficits that lead to heightened threat responses (K. A. Dodge, 1980). This 2-year longitudinal study uses direct observations to examine the real-life significance of this finding. Forty "hard-to-manage" children and 40 typically developing control children were filmed at ages 5 and 7 playing a rigged competitive game in which they experienced a clear threat of losing. Group differences in negative behavior (hard-to-manage > controls) were stable over time and independent of verbal ability. Predictors of individual differences in negative behavior were also examined. Previous studies with this sample have shown that at 4 years of age, the hard-to-manage children displayed elevated frequencies of violent pretend play (J. Dunn & C. Hughes, 2001), coupled with poor performance on tests of executive function and theory of mind (C. Hughes, J. Dunn, & A. White, 1998). In this study, 4-year-olds whose pretend play indicated a preoccupation with violence were more likely to respond negatively to the threat of losing a competitive game at age 5 and at age 7. Four-year-olds who performed poorly on tests of theory of mind and executive function showed higher rates of negative behavior at age 5 but not age 7. These findings highlight just a few of the multiple paths leading to peer problems among children with disruptive behavior problems.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)403 - 416
Number of pages14
JournalJournal of Abnormal Child Psychology
Volume29
Issue number5
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2001

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