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Thirty-Third Annual Meeting of the Society for Research in Psychopathology

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148. Shyness and aggression in the early school age years: The role of social cognitive ability

Shyness and aggression have been reported to be inversely related in early childhood (Eggum et al., 2012). However, little is known about how social cognitive understanding such as Theory of Mind (ToM) is associated with this relation. Here, we assessed 131 4- and 6-year-old typically developing children. We assessed ToM with nine validated vignette tasks and aggression was reported with a parent report questionnaire. Children’s shyness was measured concurrently with an observed measure and a maternal report questionnaire. We obtained a measure of observed shyness with a self-presentation task in which children were asked to give a speech about their most recent birthday in front of a video camera. These episodes were subsequently scored to create an observed measure by combining latency to speak and time spent speaking (reversed) scores. Although there was no linear relation between overall shyness and aggression, we found that ToM moderated this relation. Specifically, we found that children who had relatively high ToM combined with low shyness exhibited the lowest levels of aggression. This work has implication for parents and teachers as they address individual difference factors that might lead to higher levels of externalizing problems during the early school years.

Taigan MacGowan
McMaster University

Louis Schmidt
McMaster University


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