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Persistent physical aggression, high-school dropout rates, adolescent delinquency, and antisocial behavior
have all been associated with early childhood conduct problems. The preschool years are a “sensitive
period” for learning to regulate development of aggression. Children who exhibit high levels of physical
aggression in elementary school are at the highest risk of engaging in violent behavior as adolescents.
Researchers believe that children with difficult, disruptive behavior (poor social and emotional skills) are
at risk for these later problems for at least three reasons: teachers find it harder to teach them, seeing
them as less socially and academically competent, and therefore provide them with less positive feedback;
() peers reject them, which cuts off an important avenue for learning and emotional support; and (3)
children faced with this rejection from peers and teachers tend to dislike school and learning, which leads
to lower school attendance and poorer outcomes.
Because difficult behavior exhibits itself early—even before children begin kindergarten—the pattern of
rejection and negative experiences begins early, too. The early experience of rejection can have lasting
emotional and behavioral impacts beyond elementary school, creating a downward spiral that becomes
increasingly difficult to reverse.


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