Children's Social Goals Predict Response to Peer Aggression

Development, demonstration-approach, demonstration-avoidance goals predict behavior

THURSDAY, Sept. 8 (HealthDay News) -- Children's response to peer aggression can be predicted by their social goal orientation with development goals significantly predicting adaptive responses, and demonstration goals predicting maladaptive responses, according to a study published in the September/October issue of Child Development.

Karen D. Rudolph, Ph.D., from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, and colleagues investigated the impact of social goal orientation, specifically development goals (improving social skills and relationships), demonstration-approach goals (gaining positive judgments), and demonstration-avoidance goals (minimizing negative judgments) on peer aggression in 373 children (mean age, 7.97 years) who were followed from the second to the third grade. The social goal orientation construct was validated through correlations with situation-specific goals and social adjustment.

The investigators found that development goals significantly predicted more effortful engagement, problem solving, and advice seeking, and less involuntary engagement and disengagement, and less ignoring. The demonstration-approach goals predicted maladaptive responses, such as retaliation, and disengagement responses like avoidance and denial, rather than effortful engagement, problem solving, and advice seeking. Demonstration-avoidance goals predicted pacifying (ignoring) or disengagement (avoidance) responses rather than responses that draw attention to oneself (retaliation).

"This study supported the idea that children's social goal orientation shapes whether they respond in planful and adaptive or involuntary and maladaptive ways. The goals children set for their relationships can directly shape how they respond by increasing the value they place on achieving certain outcomes," the authors write.

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