Teacher-rated aggression and co-occurring behaviors and emotional problems among schoolchildren in four population-based European cohorts

Alyce M. Whipp*, Eero Vuoksimaa, Koen Bolhuis, Eveline L. de Zeeuw, Tellervo Korhonen, Matteo Mauri, Lea Pulkkinen, Kaili Rimfeld, Richard J. Rose, Catharina E.M. van Beijsterveldt, Meike Bartels, Robert Plomin, Henning Tiemeier, Jaakko Kaprio, Dorret I. Boomsma

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

7 Citations (Scopus)


Aggressive behavior in school is an ongoing concern. The current focus is on specific manifestations such as bullying, but the behavior is broad and heterogenous. Children spend a substantial amount of time in school, but their behaviors in the school setting tend to be less well characterized than at home. Because aggression may index multiple behavioral problems, we used three validated instruments to assess means, correlations and gender differences of teacher-rated aggressive behavior with co-occurring externalizing/internalizing problems and social behavior in 39,936 schoolchildren aged 7–14 from 4 population-based cohorts from Finland, the Netherlands, and the UK. Correlations of aggressive behavior were high with all other externalizing problems (r: 0.47–0.80) and lower with internalizing problems (r: 0.02–0.39). A negative association was observed with prosocial behavior (r: -0.33 to -0.54). Mean levels of aggressive behavior differed significantly by gender. Despite the higher mean levels of aggressive behavior in boys, the correlations were notably similar for boys and girls (e.g., aggressive-hyperactivity correlations: 0.51–0.75 boys, 0.47–0.70 girls) and did not vary greatly with respect to age, instrument or cohort. Thus, teacher-rated aggressive behavior rarely occurs in isolation; boys and girls with problems of aggressive behavior likely require help with other behavioral and emotional problems. Important to note, higher aggressive behavior is not only associated with higher amounts of other externalizing and internalizing problems but also with lower levels of prosocial behavior.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere0238667
JournalPLoS ONE
Issue number4 April
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2021


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