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Arch Gen Psychiatry. 1998 Aug;55(8):745-51.

Fearlessness, stimulation-seeking, and large body size at age 3 years as early predispositions to childhood aggression at age 11 years.

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  • 1Department of Psychology, University of Southern California, Los Angeles 90089-1061, USA.



Previous cross-sectional research in Western societies has linked adolescent stimulation-seeking, fearlessness, and body size to antisocial behavior. However, it is unclear how early in life these factors exert their influence, and nothing is known about their specificity to aggressive behavior per se. This study tests the hypotheses that stimulation-seeking, fearlessness, and increased body size at age 3 years predict aggression at age 11 years.


Behavioral measures of stimulation-seeking and fearlessness, together with height and weight, were measured at age 3 years and related to ratings of aggression at age 11 years in 1130 male and female Indian and Creole children from the island of Mauritius.


Aggressive children at age 11 years were characterized by increased measures of stimulation-seeking, fearlessness, height, and weight at age 3 years. Stimulation-seeking and height were independently related to aggression, whereas the fearlessness-aggression relationship was mediated by height. Large body size at age 3 years but not 11 years was related to increased aggression at age 11 years, indicating a critical period in development for the influence of body size on aggression.


Results (1) implicate large body size, stimulation-seeking, and fearlessness in the development of childhood aggression; (2) suggest that there may be a critical period in development in which biological processes influence later aggression; and (3) highlight the importance of early processes in the etiology of aggression.

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