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Keywords:

  • victimisation;
  • theory of mind;
  • executive function;
  • attachment;
  • preschool

Abstract

Most research into peer victimisation has focussed on children aged 8 years and above and has included a study of the correlates of victimisation, including cognitive and social skills, and attachment profiles. Recent research has started to investigate aggression and victimisation in younger groups and has found that the nature of aggression differs from that in older children in terms of the types of victimisation involved and the stability of the roles. This study investigated some of the correlates of roles taken in victimisation in 104 children aged 4–6 years, using a cartoon methodology to elicit peer nominations for aggressor, victim, and defender. It examined the social cognitive abilities, executive function skills, and attachment profiles of aggressors, victims, and defenders. Victims did not exhibit poor performance on the social cognitive tasks or have insecure attachment qualities as has been found with victims during middle childhood. Aggressors did not perform highly on the social cognitive tasks in contrast to older aggressors and bullies. Defenders were found to perform above average (although not significantly different from other groups) on the social cognitive tasks. These findings are related to the nature of aggression and victimisation at this age, and a developmental change hypothesis is proposed to accommodate them. Aggr. Behav. 00:1–18, 2005. © 2005 Wiley-Liss, Inc.