In a psychological study that may help us understand some long standing clashes including Arab-Israeli conflict, scientists find that hypervigilance to hostility in others triggers aggressive behaviour in children.
The four-year study involving 1,299 children and their parents finds the pattern holds true in 12 different cultural groups from nine countries across the globe.
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"Our study identifies a major psychological process that leads a child to commit violence," said lead author Kenneth A Dodge, director of the Center for Child and Family Policy at Duke University.
The results stating the reasons for problem of aggressive behaviour in individuals was published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
"When a child infers that he or she is being threatened by someone else and makes an attribution that the other person is acting with hostile intent, then that child is likely to react with aggression."
"It points toward the need to change how we socialise our children, to become more benign, more forgiving and less defensive. It will make our children less aggressive and our society more peaceful," Dodge said.
The researchers measured children's levels of aggressive behaviour by collecting observations from the children and their mothers.
When children believed an act was the result of hostile intent, they were more likely to react aggressively.
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An important way to prevent aggressive behaviour both within and across cultures is to socialise children to think differently about their interactions with others.
"Not only should we teach our children to do unto others as we would have them do unto ourselves, but also to think about others as we would have them think about us," Dodge said.