Aggression in Toddlerhood

How it affects academics and how parents can help

Normal Aggression in Toddlers

Toddler-hood is an essential part of any child's life. Toddlers begin exploring and manipulating their external world. As a result of this new exploration, toddlers tend to become more aggressive than in infancy. It is normal for moderate levels of aggression to occur during this age. Problems occur when a child exhibits high levels of aggression when interacting with others.

What is aggression

Aggression is any behavior intended to harm another person's physical or psychological well-being. This includes pushing, hitting, or intimidating others.

What Is Aggressive Behavior? | Child Psychology

How aggression affects academic performance

Toddlers exhibiting high levels of aggression tend to have more academic difficulties.

These difficulties include:

  • struggling with planning and attention
  • remaining on task in the classroom
  • poor social skills

The lack of academic development leads to less time engaged in academic learning which in turn interferes with the child's ability to acquire essential skills later in life.

Aggression exhibited in 2-3 year old children is negatively correlated with 7-8 year old spelling, letter-word identification, and overall academic achievement.

What does this mean??

Toddlers who exhibit increased levels of aggression have lower academic achievement throughout later childhood and into adolescence and early adulthood.

What can parents do to decrease aggression in their little ones???

Negative parental behavior can increase toddler aggression

  • Parental physical and verbal coercion
  • Parental power assertion over the child
  • Aggressive behavior exhibited by the parent
  • Parental drug use including smoking, hard liquor use, and illicit drug use
  • Marital conflict

All of these behaviors are often associated with inadequate parenting practices.

Curbing negative parental behavior promotes positive parenting skill development

Positive parental behavior can decrease exhibited aggression in toddlers

Four parental characteristics that contribute to a decrease in toddler aggression:

  • Close parent-child bonding
  • Responsive parenting
  • Offering a warm, supportive, and sensitive environment for the child
  • Affectionate care giving


  1. Brook, J. S., Zheng, L., Whiteman, M., & Brook, D. W. (2001). Aggression in toddlers: Associations with parenting and marital relations.The Journal Of Genetic Psychology: Research And Theory On Human Development, 162(2), 228-241. doi:10.1080/00221320109597963
  2. Brennan, L. M., Shaw, D. S., Dishion, T. J., & Wilson, M. (2012). Longitudinal predictors of school-age academic achievement: Unique contributions of toddler-age aggression, oppositionality, inattention, and hyperactivity. Journal Of Abnormal Child Psychology, 40(8), 1289-1300. doi:10.1007/s10802-012-9639-2
  3. Berk, L. (2010). Development through the lifespan. Illinois State University: Allyn & Bacon.