Testing the developmental distinctiveness of male proactive and reactive aggression with a nested longitudinal experimental intervention



An experimental preventive intervention nested into a longitudinal study was used to test the developmental distinctiveness of proactive and reactive aggression. The randomized multimodal preventive intervention targeted a subsample of boys rated disruptive by their teachers. These boys were initially part of a sample of 895 boys, followed from kindergarten to 17 years of age. Semiparametric analyses of developmental trajectories for self-reported proactive and reactive aggression (between 13 and 17 years of age) indicated three trajectories for each type of aggression that varied in size and shape (Low, Moderate, and High Peaking). Intent-to-treat comparisons between the boys in the prevention group and the control group confirmed that the preventive intervention between 7 and 9 years of age, which included parenting skills and social skills training, could impact the development of reactive more than proactive aggression. The intervention effect identified in reactive aggression was related to a reduction in self-reported coercive parenting. The importance of these results for the distinction between subtypes of aggressive behaviors and the value of longitudinal-experimental studies from early childhood onward is discussed. Aggr. Behav. 36:127–140, 2010. © 2010 Wiley-Liss, Inc.