Aggression and Prosocial Behaviour – Showing Emotion Through Learning

     During early childhood, a child develops self-control and a conscience. In order for a child to become a member of their social group, they must learn to get along in this group with their peers. This learning involves controlling their aggression and showing empathy.

     Aggression is caused by three factors: 1) instinct, 2) rewards and 3) observation/imitation. Aggression can be controlled in three ways. Catharsis can be used to “vent” anger is safe ways. These behaviours often display themselves through children’s play activities. Rewarding non-aggressive behaviour also works. An aggressive child is seeking attention and if they are not rewarded with this attention and in fact see the victim being rewarded for not acting aggressively, an example of how to act prosocially is offered and aggression will subside. Cognitive training can be used to stop aggressive behaviour by simply telling a child that aggression hurts other people and makes the, unhappy, that it doesn’t solve problems and that sharing and taking turns works better.

     Prosocial behaviour is expressed by what is termed “empathy.” During early childhood, a child ability to empathize broadens and they become better at understanding the distress of others. These behaviours include sharing, helping, care-giving and showing compassion.

Promoting Prosocial Behaviour:

     A parent may be wondering how they can make sure that their child will show the prosocial behaviour that is important for their success in society. There are ways to promote this behaviour. Reward may seem to be the best way to promote prosocial behaviour, however it has been found to not be as effective as people think. Better ways to promote good behaviour is through modeling (a parent behaves the way they wish the child to), and induction where the adult appeals to the child’s pride and desire to be grown up, explaining what needs to be done to be a good boy/girl and why the child should act so in order to be more “grown-up.”

Related Links

Child Psychology
Early Childhood
Mental Development
Social development & Identity
Community Influences
Middle Childhood
Developmental Psychology
Problems of Children & Teens