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Keywords:

  • physical aggression;
  • observation;
  • toddlers;
  • preschoolers;
  • externalizing

Abstract

We investigated the reliability and (convergent and discriminant) validity of an observational measure of physical aggression in toddlers and preschoolers, originally developed by Keenan and Shaw [1994]. The observation instrument is based on a developmental definition of aggression. Physical aggression was observed twice in a laboratory setting, the first time when children were 1–3 years old, and again 1 year later. Observed physical aggression was significantly related to concurrent mother-rated physical aggression for 2- to 4-year-olds, but not to maternal ratings of nonaggressive externalizing problems, indicating the measure's discriminant validity. However, we did not find significant 1-year stability of observed physical aggression in any of the age groups, whereas mother-rated physical aggression was significantly stable for all ages. The observational measure shows promise, but may have assessed state rather than trait aggression in our study. Aggr. Behav. 34:539–552. 2008. © 2008 Wiley-Liss, Inc.