Social information processing and the development of conduct problems in children and adolescents: looking beneath the surface

Jacquelyn Mize and Gregory S. Pettit

in Social Cognition and Developmental Psychopathology

Published on behalf of Oxford University Press

Published in print September 2008 | ISBN: 9780198569183
Published online February 2013 | e-ISBN: 9780191754432 | DOI:

Series: International Perspectives in Philosophy & Psychiatry

Social information processing and the development of conduct problems in children and adolescents: looking beneath the surface

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Conduct disorder (CD) and oppositional defiant disorder (ODD) refer to childhood problems defined by a broad array of disruptive antisocial behaviours (American Psychiatric Association 2000). Behaviour disorders are among the most common presenting problems of childhood, and are thought to affect 5–10 per cent of 8- to 16-year-old children (Angold and Costello 2001). Of the wide range of disruptive and destructive behaviours characteristic of the CD–ODD spectrum, persistent aggression is the most predictive of subsequent serious criminality (Stattin and Magnusson 1989; Loeber et al. 1995), and it is aggression on which virtually all studies of social cognition in behaviour-disordered children has focused. Social cognition appears to be crucial in determining the persistence or, conversely, the discontinuity of early aggression problems (Loeber and Coie 2001), and so is of considerable importance both theoretically and practically.

In the past two decades, empirical investigations of social cognition in children with behaviour problems have largely been guided by what has come to be called a social information processing (SIP) model of aggression (Dodge 1993; 2003), also referred to as social cognitive information processing (Huesmann 1998). The focal point of this large and accumulating literature is on how people interpret and respond to challenging and provocative social encounters with others. SIP biases and deficits are thought to underlie maladaptive behaviour—especially aggressive behaviour—in specific social situations. As a fairly mature theoretical model, SIP has had a major impact on the field. In our view, it is useful and timely at this juncture to look somewhat more deeply at the SIP model in relation to its developmental course and its links with distinct forms of aggressive behaviour. We conclude with a discussion of emerging work on psychophysiological processes in aggression that we believe will shed important new light on the role of SIP as an explanatory mechanism in the development of conduct problems. Before turning to a more detailed discussion of these issues, we first present an overview of the SIP framework.

Chapter.  14893 words. 

Subjects: Psychiatry

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