Investigating preschoolers’ perspectives on aggression through observation and video-stimulated recall

Cara S. Swit*, Anne L. McMaugh, Wayne A. Warburton

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


This article explores video-stimulated recall as a novel approach to understanding children’s decisions to engage in relational and physical aggression. Past studies have relied on caregiver and observer reports to investigate children’s social behaviors, omitting children’s experience and interpretation of their own behavior. Within this Australian study, 68 children age 3 to 5 years were assessed for relational aggression by teachers. Nine children identified by teachers with high relational aggression and seven children identified with average levels of relational aggression were video recorded while engaging in free play. Immediately afterward, video footage of the child engaging in aggressive behavior was shown to the child to stimulate recall of the reasons for their behavior. Subsequent analysis were focused on assessing the intentions and functions of children’s aggressive behaviors, as reported by the child. Focusing on children’s own interpretations enabled a more nuanced and accurate understanding of the child’s social cognitive processes about the intent and functions of their aggression. We demonstrate that video observations alongside video-stimulated interviews can be used to effectively elicit children’s interpretations of their own behaviors. Incorporating children’s perspectives in research and practice has several implications, such as improving communication between children and adults and fostering children’s self-reflective awareness.

Original languageEnglish
Number of pages17
JournalJournal of Research in Childhood Education
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 15 Feb 2024


  • behavioral assessment
  • early childhood
  • observation
  • relational aggression
  • social cognition
  • video-stimulated recall


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