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Not Sure Why Your Child Is Acting Out? This Might Be Why

Screaming boy
If your child is particularly aggressive these days and you can't seem to figure out why, new research might have the answer: An international study from Duke University suggests that if children are hypersensitive to hostility from others, they are more likely to exhibit aggressive behavior themselves.

Researchers examined 1,299 8-year-old children and their parents in nine countries (representing 12 cultural groups) for four years. One universal pattern was found across all cultures: "When a child infers that he or she is being threatened by someone else and makes an attribution that the other person is acting with hostile intent, then that child is likely to react with aggression," said the study's lead author, Kenneth A. Dodge M.D.

The findings, which were published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, concluded that the way a child is socialized is key. If children are socialized to be defensive, there is a greater chance for aggressive behavior.

When it came to the countries with the highest and lowest rates of child aggressive behavior problems, children from the United States (Durham, N.C. to be exact) who participated in the study came out somewhere in the middle.

"By teaching our children to give others the benefit of the doubt, we will help them grow up to be less aggressive, less anxious and more competent," Dodge notes.

Related: Genetics May Determine Toddlers' Aggression

Caitlin St John is an Editorial Assistant for who splits her time between New York City and her hometown on Long Island. Follow her on Twitter: @CAITYstjohn.

Handling Aggressive Behavior

Image: Screaming boy via Shutterstock