Executive function is defined as the ability for an individual to accomplish a task by controlling their behavior enough to do so. Executive function uses cognitive skills to complete the task. A new research study conducted by the University of Potsdam in Germany looked into how a reduced level of executive function can lead to aggressive behaviors in children. The main purpose of their study was to determine if the children with lower levels of executive function were exhibiting more aggressive behaviors in four types of aggression: physical, relational, reactive, and proactive aggression, and which types of aggression was most common.
The study followed the children from the beginning of the study, then at one year after the study began, and again at three years after the beginning of the study. Teachers, parents, and observation/testing by the research team were all utilized in the study to determine the levels of aggression and executive function.
It was shown that those children who exhibited lower levels of executive function definitively showed more aggression, and the lower the level of executive function, the more aggressive behaviors were noted. Reactive aggression was the most common type of aggression exhibited by the children. This is likely due to the increased tendency of children with a lower executive function to become angry and exhibit reactive aggression quickly.
The research team hopes to continue in the study and use the information gleaned from it to help create and determine the best treatment techniques for improving executive function in children, with the idea that the anger and aggressive behaviors would decrease also. Studies such as these are critical in helping today’s children cope and manage their feelings of anger and aggression and put their efforts towards a more productive way of handling their emotions.