Science shows that when children misinterprets intentions of the other party’s actions for hostile intent, the child’s aggressiveness and violence tend to increase as retaliation. This happens universally across cultural groups and varies significantly across various cultural groups.

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What Research Shows

Researchers compared 1,299 children (average age 8 years) from 12 countries including America and China and were tracked for 4 years. Children were given scenarios to read involving common situations that could be interpreted ambiguously and worked together on them with their mothers. An example of a scenario may read as someone who may bump into you and the child can read it as intentional or as an accident. This leads to them to predict what is their likely response.

The least aggressive children come from Sweden and China whereas the most aggressive ones can be found in Italy and Jordan.  Based on environment and culture, children  from the more aggressive countries are often taught to be more defensive against others. This actually leads to chronic aggressive behavior problems in the long run.

In short, this attitude is learned. 

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What does this Mean for Parents

More often than not, children often mirror the simple actions and thoughts of parents daily. They watch their parents responding to situations daily and interacting with others. Many parents are under the impression that character does not really matter and that academic should come first during their formative years. However, when a child picks up subconsciously that their parents respond with aggressiveness and anxiety to situations and others, they may pick it up and display in their later years.

Some parents believe that their child do not display the same aggression as it is not picked up when their child is with them. It may be advisable to find out how the child responds to her/his peers in school instead as the aggression actually manifests in other manner – no matter how inconceivable it may sound to parents especially when the child acts especially docile in front of parents. This can manifests via more subtly aggressive ways such as name-calling, social media and others. If you find your child having trouble making friends or facing some issues, you may want to probe much deeper to find out the root of the issue.

Study: Hostile attributional bias and aggressive behavior in global context