The Influence of Classroom Aggression and Classroom Climate on Aggressive–Disruptive Behavior


  • This work was supported by National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) Grants R18MH48083, R18MH50951, R18MH50952, and R18MH50953. The Center for Substance Abuse Prevention, Department of Education, and National Institute for Drug Abuse also provided support for FAST Track through a memorandum of support with the NIMH. Support has also come from the Department of Education Grant S184430002 and NIMH Grants K05MH00797 and K05MH01027. Appreciation is expressed to parents, teachers, students, and school district personnel who supported this research in the Durham, NC; Nashville, TN; Seattle, WA; and central Pennsylvania areas.

concerning this article should be addressed to Duane E. Thomas, Division of Applied Psychology and Human Development, Graduate School of Education, University of Pennsylvania, 3700 Walnut Street, Philadelphia, PA 19104-6216. Electronic mail may be sent to


Research suggests that early classroom experiences influence the socialization of aggression. Tracking changes in the aggressive behavior of 4,179 children from kindergarten to second-grade (ages 5–8), this study examined the impact of 2 important features of the classroom context—aggregate peer aggression and climates characterized by supportive teacher–student interactions. The aggregate aggression scores of children assigned to first-grade classrooms predicted the level of classroom aggression (assessed by teacher ratings) and quality of classroom climate (assessed by observers) that emerged by the end of Grade 1. Hierarchical linear model analyses revealed that first-grade classroom aggression and quality of classroom climate made independent contributions to changes in student aggression, as students moved from kindergarten to second grade. Implications for policy and practice are discussed.