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Developmental Precursors of Young School-Age Children’s Hostile Attribution Bias

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This prospective longitudinal study provides evidence of preschool-age precursors of hostile attribution bias in young school-age children, a topic that has received little empirical attention. We examined multiple risk domains, including laboratory and observational assessments of children's social-cognition, general cognitive functioning, effortful control, and peer aggression. Preschoolers (N = 231) with a more advanced theory-of-mind, better emotion understanding, and higher IQ made fewer hostile attributions of intent in the early school years. Further exploration of these significant predictors revealed that only certain components of these capacities (i.e., nonstereotypical emotion understanding, false-belief explanation, and verbal IQ) were robust predictors of a hostile attribution bias in young school-age children and were especially strong predictors among children with more advanced effortful control. These relations were prospective in nature-the effects of preschool variables persisted after accounting for similar variables at school age. We conclude by discussing the implications of our findings for future research and prevention.

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