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An investigation of Turkish preservice teachers' aggression levels.

Abstract

This research was carried out to investigate preservice teachers' aggressive behaviors. In addition, the contributions of variables to the aggressive behaviors were explored, including females' and males' patterns of explaining aggressive behaviors. Out of 3366 preservice teachers at Education Faculty of Anadolu University and Osmangazi University, Eskisehir, Turkey, 853 were assigned to the study through stratified random sampling. Data related to preservice teachers' self reported aggression levels and perceived communication and problem-solving skills was collected by means of the "Aggression Scale" (Tok, 2001), "Communication Skills Scale" (Korkut, 1999), and "Problem Solving Inventory" (Sahin, Sahin, & Heppner, 1993), respectively. An Information Form was developed by the researcher to gather some descriptive information such as gender, age and cumulative Grade Point Average (GPA) of preservice teachers. A Stepwise Regression Model was used to examine predictors of preservice teachers' aggression. Results indicated that the variables of communication and problem-solving skills predicted aggressive behaviors of not only females but also males. However, academic achievement and age predicted aggressive behaviors of neither females nor males. As a result, patterns explaining aggressive behaviors of both genders were found to be similar.

Key words: Aggression, academic achievement, communication skills, problem-solving skills, preservice teachers

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Nowadays, aggression is one of the most important problems that societies face (Van Acker & Talbott, 1999) because it has escalated and extended in to every aspect of daily life. Especially in recent years, homicide and bullying, mobbing, racketeering, and other aggressive behaviors at schools have been observed frequently (Gable & Van Acker, 2000; Loeber & Hay, 1997; Myles & Simpson, 1998). Aggressive behaviors at schools have led to serious physical, psychological and financial damages, and at the same time disturbed peace at school and affected school climate negatively (Boxer, Dara, Dubow, Danner, & Heretick, 2006; Boxer & Dubow, 2002; Gable, Manning, & Bullock, 1997). Moreover, these behaviors have also increased the predisposition of the children with aggressive behavior to delinquency and maladjustment (Hill & Werner, 2006). Thus, before aggressive behaviors become stable and habitual, taking precautions against aggression, and including schools in prevention studies are considerably important (Farrell, Meyer, Kung, & Sullivan, 2001) because school is a social institution reaching almost all children during their critical developmental years (Lochmann & Dunn, 1993; Van Acker & Talbott, 1999).

Schools can play an important role in the prevention of aggression by means of providing students with a safe and positive school climate (Catalano, Loeber & McKinney, 1999). Developing a positive school atmosphere can be achieved by proactive responses instead of reactive ones (Sugai & Herner, 2002). Proactive responses include reinforcing appropriate behaviors and providing opportunities for students to become academically successful (Christie, Jolivette & Nelson, 2000). That is, school can be more effective in the prevention of aggression by improving students' social skills and increasing their academic success.

Academic performance is seen as an important factor in aggression and violence prevention because academic failure was cited as one of the risk factors for aggressive and antisocial behavior (Gottfredson, 1987; Walker & Horner, 1996). Therefore, various intervention programs have been designed for improving academic performance to reduce the risk factor of academic failure. Especially the intervention programs facilitating academic progress, monitoring student's behavior and reinforcing appropriate behavior have led to an increase in academic achievement and a decrease in disruptive classroom behaviors such as aggression, drug use and delinquency (Catalano et al., 1999).

Prevention studies were based on the research findings indicating that academic performance was related with aggressive behavior, and delinquency. In other words, lower academic performance was associated with delinquent offending. In contrast, academic achievement was found to be related with refraining from delinquency (Maguin & Loeber, 1996). The relationship between aggression and academic achievement was investigated with regard to various age groups. In these studies, academic achievement was determined with various criteria such as truancy (Miller & Plant, 1999), school drop out (French & Conrad, 2001), and GPA (Lounsbury, Sundstrom, Loveland, & Gibson, 2003). For instance, Feshbach and Price (1984) found support for the relationship between aggression and academic achievement among primary school children. Orpinas and Frankowski (2001) found a significant relationship between these two constructs for middle school participants. Lounsbury et al. (2003) also found a significant relationship between academic performance and aggression levels of 7th and 10th graders. The relationship between aggression and academic achievement of high school students (Loveland, Lounsbury, Welsh, & Buboltz, 2007) and college students (Balkin, 1987 as cited in Loveland et al., 2007; Swing, 2008) was also found to be significant. High-school dropout has also been found to be a stressor associated with adult-onset of aggression (Windle & Windle, 1995).

Low academic achievement, described as one of the strong predictors of aggression in the literature, has been related to an increased probability of displaying aggressive behavior (Orpinas & Frankowski, 2001). Finn and Frone (2003) investigated the predictors of aggression and vandalism at school with 9th, 10th, 11th and 12th grade students. The contribution of academic predictors of school identification and average school grades to the explanation of aggression was found to be significant. That is, the students who were loosely attached to school and were less successful had a higher probability of acting aggressively (Finn & Frone, 2003). Aggression and academic performance were negatively related with each other, but the relationship was not causal (Connor, 2002; Moeller, 2001; Scott, Nelson & Liaupsin, 2001). Poor academic achievement is the strongest predictor of aggression (Orpinas & Frankowski, 2001). The relationship between academic achievement and aggression can be explained by the findings indicating that academic achievement was one of the positive outcomes related to self-control and aggression (Tangney, Baumeister, & Boone, 2004). The construct of self-control enables individuals not to be interrupted by undesired behavioral tendencies and to avoid converting these tendencies to behaviors. Since self-control does not allow individuals to procrastinate academic activities, and prevents emotional distractibility interfering with performance, it promotes academic achievement. At the same time, self-control prevents individuals from acting aggressively and violently (Ozbay & Koksoy, 2009; Tangney et al., 2004). In contrast, poor self-control was found to be related to educational under-achievement, negative school experiences, poor interpersonal relationships (Cheung & Cheung, 2008). Furthermore, individuals low in self-control can not manage their anger and hurt others impulsively because they may have a lack of empathy (Tangney et al., 2004). In other words, it can be stated that high self-control was negatively related with aggression through empathy, or perspective taking.

Although promoting academic success and reinforcing academic skills lead to improvements in social skills (Coie & Krehbiel, 1984) in addition to a decrease in aggression, maximizing academic achievement by itself may not be adequate. Therefore, school wide prevention and intervention programs must integrate non-academic instruction elements like social skills to academic instruction elements (Gable, Hendrickson & Smith, 1999 as cited in Gable & Van Acker, 2000). The programs including not only academic but also social/behavioral goals reach most of the students and act as a strong preventive agent for aggression (Gable & Van Acker, 2000).

Schools implementing prevention studies try to improve communication and problem-solving skills of students to let them reject the offers to participate in antisocial and aggressive behaviors (Hawkins & Herrenkohl, 2004). In these studies, students were trained for communication skills, anger management, problem-solving skills, and empathy that allow them to express themselves easily and resolve conflicts and problems constructively (Frey, Hirschstein, & Guzzo, 2000; Hawkins & Herrenkohl, 2004). Nevertheless, time limited interventions can not promote the endurance of the decrease in aggressive behaviors. Thus, for the generalization and the persistence of the development provided by these programs, the acquired behaviors should be practiced by students and reinforced by the third parties such as teachers, and parents (Frey et al, 2000; Gable et al., 1997). In other words, at schools and classes that span the most important part of the day, reinforcing prosocial behaviors and allowing students to display the alternative behaviors to aggression by means of communication and problem-solving skills are essential in prevention studies (Boxer & Dubow, 2002; Van Acker & Talbott, 1999). In this context, teachers are indispensable components of the aggression prevention studies (Boxer et al., 2006; Lochman & Dunn, 1993).

Aggression prevention studies at schools should focus on increasing positive and desired behaviors rather than decreasing negative and undesired behaviors because positive and preventive school wide discipline policies lead to decreases in aggressive behaviors in the long run. These school-wide positive discipline procedures require active involvement and commitment of teachers (Walker & Horner, 1996) because teachers' interaction with students, their reactions to the students with aggressive behaviors, their apprehension of the aims of students' aggressive behaviors, their ways of solving problems and conflicts make aggression prevention efforts more effective (Dill & Haberman, 1995). Since the interaction styles of teachers make them more effective in dealing with aggression, teachers are required to have certain skills (Van Acker &Talbott, 1999; Walker & Horner, 1996) to teach and model prosocial behaviors to students, and to provide opportunities for the application of these desired behaviors (Furlong, Morrison & Dear, 1994). Thus, by means of using their resources and skills, teachers may play a significant role in aggression prevention at schools (Boxer et al., 2006; Van Acker & Grant, 1996; Walker & Horner, 1996).

Teachers may be effective for the prevention of student's aggressive behaviors by means of their own behaviors shaped by their communication and problem-solving skills. If teachers listen to students effectively and give students feedback by using social-emotional competencies (Van Acker & Talbott, 1999), and use problem-solving skills whenever conflicts arise in classrooms, they become role models for students. Therefore, they support students to develop prosocial behaviors instead of aggressive behaviors (Boxer et al., 2006; Dill & Haberman, 1995; Frey et al., 2000; Myles & Simpson, 1998) when they venerate students and try to understand each side of the conflict by empathic skills (Wallach, 1996; Wessler, 2003). Conversely, teachers who display aggressive behaviors, have insufficient communication and problem-solving skills, and are not democratic and empathic may increase students' tendencies to aggressive behaviors by impeding the development of supportive and accepting climate in classrooms (Gable & Van Acker, 2000). For these reasons, teachers' aggression level, communication skills and problem-solving skills have a significant role in the prevention of school aggression (Boxer & Dubow, 2002; Dill & Haberman, 1995; Frey et al., 2000; Myles & Simpson, 1998).

In general, since communication skills enable people to express themselves and to understand others accurately (Schneider, 1991; Vicki, 1997), incompetence and inadequacy in these skills increase the likelihood of aggression (Dodge & Price, 1994; Eron & Huesmann, 1984). When individuals do not attribute the intentions of others' behaviors accurately or express themselves assertively due to their incompetencies in communication skills, they may have adaptation difficulties (Braithwaite, 2001). In addition, when individuals do not perceive situations and individuals from different perspectives, their tendencies to behave aggressively rise (Miller & Eisenberg, 1988). In contrast, when individuals are aware of their feelings and the causes underlying these feelings, and control their feelings, they are less likely to display aggressive behavior (Underwood, Coie & Herbsman, 1992). All these results indicate that effective communication skills may lead to decreases in aggressive behaviors. For this reason, there may be a significant relationship between communication skills and aggressive behaviors of preservice teachers. Furthermore, teachers' patterns of grasping events and situations in the classroom, and ways of solving problems may shape the scheme development and problem-solving skills of students (Moeller, 2001; Myles & Simpson, 1998). That is, problem-solving skills of individuals also provide new opportunities for effective conflict resolution and aggression prevention (Frey et al., 2000).

Some studies describe aggression as a lack of social skills, or as a maladaptive way of solving social problems (Eron & Huesmann, 1984; Huesmann, 1988; Huesmann & Eron, 1989; Pakaslahti & Kelti-kangas-Jarvinen, 1996). In general terms, deficiencies in problem-solving skills may cause individuals to perceive situations more hostile, to exhibit aggressive problem-solving strategies more frequently instead of prosocial ones (Dodge & Price, 1994). Individuals' cognitive incapacities or difficulties in social information processing may also influence problem-solving skills and eventually increase the likelihood of display of aggressive behavior (Webster-Stratton & Reid, 2003). Thus, teachers can become role models for their students by solving problems and conflicts aggressively because of the inadequacy in their problem-solving skills (Frey et al., 2000) and eventually they may increase students' tendencies to aggression (Walker & Horner, 1996).

Teachers using their communication and problem-solving skills effectively have a major role in creating a peaceful and communicative school atmosphere. By means of these skills, they make students discover their full potentials, become more successful, and develop more positive attitudes toward school (Gottfredson, Wilson & Najaka, 2002). This positive atmosphere consequently can decrease the probability of aggressive behaviors at schools (Gable & Van Acker, 2000; Hill & Werner, 2006). Moreover, teachers can monitor and supervise the students' behaviors more effectively by means of their communication and problem-solving skills in addition to being role models in terms of these skills (Boxer et al., 2006; Hawkins & Herrenkohl, 2004; Lochman & Dunn, 1993).

Although teachers are important persons in dealing with aggression, most teacher education programs do not adequately prepare teachers to cope with student aggression during their preservice training (Furlong et al., 1994). Neophyte teachers may not be aware of the effects their behavior may have on students. Therefore, making teachers realize this during preservice training may lead them to behave more consciously and more cautiously. As a result, by reinforcing positive behaviors, and conversely preventing undesired behaviors, teachers can deal with the students exhibiting aggressive behaviors effectively (Lochman & Dunn, 1993; Van Acker & Talbott, 1999). Students try out neophyte teachers' limits and tolerance by displaying behaviors such as scorning and humiliating them. These behaviors may involve an aggressive component. In other words, students test and evaluate teachers' reactions to aggressive behaviors (Wessler, 2003). Thus, possession of communication and problem-solving skills by preservice teachers make it possible to cope with aggressive behaviors of students more effectively (Gottfredson et al., 2002; Lochman & Dunn, 1993).

In the aggression literature, another frequently examined variable is gender. Studies of gender differences in terms of aggression have contradictory findings. Males were found to be more aggressive than females in some investigations (Eagly & Steffen, 1986; Farrington, 1994; Harris, 1996; Harris & Knight-Bohnhoff, 1996b; Madsen, 2008; Ramirez, Andreu & Fujihara, 2001). On the other hand, some research findings indicated that females displayed more aggressive behaviors than males (Hatch & Forgays, 2001; Osterman et al., 1998) or that females and males did not differ in terms of aggression (Green, Richardson & Lago, 1996), and the results of some studies indicated that aggression levels of females and males change according to type of aggression and age (Bjorkqvist, Lagerspetz & Kaukiainen, 1992; Eagly & Steffen, 1986). Bjorkqvist et al. (1992) investigated whether gender differences in aggressive behavior change as a function of age. It was found that at the age of 8 males used direct aggression more frequently, females exhibited more withdrawal behavior, and in terms of indirect aggression no significant difference was found between genders. At the age of fifteen, males indicated physical aggression and females showed indirect aggression and withdrawal more frequently. In this research, it was emphasized that males tend to use more direct aggression and females more indirect forms. Green et al. (1996) and Bjorkqvist (1994) confirmed this finding with their data indicating that females preferred indirect aggression to direct aggression. Zeichner, Parrott and Frey (2003) found that males gave more electric shocks than females; that is males employed more physical aggression than females. Moreover, Japanese, Spanish and American males legitimized more physical and direct verbal aggression than female counterparts (Fujihara, Kohyama, Andreu & Ramirez, 1999).

Duque, Klevens and Ramirez (2003) carried out a study with 3007 Hispanic participants and found that participants who were males and between the ages of 15 and 24 were more aggressive. In Turkey the research findings related to gender differences in terms of aggression are inconsistent. Some research findings indicated that males were more aggressive than females (Aricak, 1995; Demirhan, 2002; Gumus, 2000; Guner, 1995; Tuzgol, 1998; Tok, 2001), one of them indicated the opposite (Dogan, 2001) and some of them indicated no gender difference in terms of aggression (Hatunoglu, 1994; Koksal, 1991). Although there are inconsistencies about gender differences in aggression, there is evidence that males are more aggressive than females regardless of the aggression types and how aggression was measured (Berkowitz, 1993; Huesmann & Eron, 1989). Moreover, gender differences remain fairly stable across countries (Winstok, 2006) although the level of aggression varies. Therefore, to get a more detailed picture of gender differences in terms of aggression, meanings of the aggressive behaviors for females and males were investigated (Campbell, Muncer & Coyle, 1992; Campbell, Muncer & Gorman, 1993).

Females' and males' perceptions and evaluations of aggression have been influenced by gender role stereotypes (Campbell et al., 1993; Harris & Knight-Bohnhoff, 1996a; Osterman et al., 1998). These socially constructed gender roles make females be more responsible, more obedient, more sober-minded and more caring than boys (Richardson & Hammock, 2007). Therefore, females were more likely to think that aggression would lead to more damages and as a result of instigating aggression they felt shameful and anxious (Eagly & Steffen, 1986). Since male gender role is characterized by power and dominance, aggression was found to be more relevant to male gender role (Archer, Holloway, & McLoughlin, 1995). It can be stated that social gender roles play an important role in the development of social representation of aggression (Campbell et al., 1993). Since social representation, one component of social cognition, consists of opinions, attitudes and images of phenomena, it organizes information, provides social code enabling sharing and communication among individuals. By means of social representations that determine causal attributions, individuals construct their reality and world, and their behaviors are also shaped by social representations (Moscovici, 1988). Similarly, social representation about aggression shape aggressive behaviors of individuals.

The difference between females and males in terms of aggression can be explained by different social representations adopted by females and males (Campbell et al., 1992). Females viewed aggression negatively, they perceived it as resulting from a failure of self-control (Campbell & Muncer, 1987), but males perceived aggression as a means of reaching goals they set for themselves. That is, males hold an instrumental aggression view, and they may behave aggressively on purpose without any anger. In contrast, females adopt an expressive view, and therefore aggression is seen as discharge of accumulated stress due to the loss of self-control (Campbell et al., 1993). Since the meaning and aim of aggression varies across gender, variables explaining females' and males' aggressive behaviors may differ, too.

Another variable influencing social representation of aggression is age or grade level (freshman, sophomore, etc.) (Campbell et al., 1992). Most of the aggression studies that have taken the ages of adults into account have indicated that violence declines with age (Stets & Straus, 1989). For example, domestic violence among adults under the age of 30 was higher than that of those whose ages were between 31 and 50 (Stark & Flitcraft, 1988). Stated in another way, age was found to be negatively related with aggression among young adults (Harris, 1996). That is, the older you become and the more education you have, the lower the aggression level you exhibit (Harris & Knight-Bohnhoff, 1996a; Harris & Knight-Bohnhoff, 1996b). Hyde (1984) also stated that aggression decreases with age. Similarly, Smith and Waterman (2006) also found that instrumental expressive aggression was negatively associated with age in undergraduates; that is being young was strongly correlated with the frequency of aggressive acts. Contrary to the findings indicating differences in terms of age, Russell and Arms (1995) did not find any significant relationships between age and either physical aggression or anger in a sample of men. Moreover, age was not found to be significantly related to self reported aggression of undergraduates and the expressive component of the aggression scale used in Smith and Waterman's (2006) study. At the same time, age was not a significant predictor of undergraduates' self reported aggression (Smith & Waterman, 2006). Some research findings indicated no significant relationship between aggression and the grade levels of participants (Aricak, 1995; Demirhan, 2002; Gumus, 2000; Tuzgol, 1998). In terms of grade level, one research found that senior undergraduates were more aggressive than freshman undergraduates (Tok, 2001). Jenssen and Engesbak (1994) obtained the opposite finding that more highly educated Norwegians expressed less hostility toward immigrants. Harris and Knight-Bohnhoff's (1996b) results supported the negative relationship between educational level and aggression of both genders.

Barefoot, Beckman, Haney, Siegler, & Lipkus (1993) indicated that aggression is higher for younger participants, lowest for the participants whose ages are between 30-60 years, and somewhat higher among the oldest participants. This can be explained by the transitions from adolescence to adulthood and from adulthood to old age. Transitional periods might require individuals to reorganize their preferred ways of dealing with internal and external demands (Diehl, Coyle, & Labouvie-Vief, 1996). Support for this statement came from the finding that assault rates culminate at age 21 and decline gradually thereafter (Lore & Schultz, 1993).

Negative relationships between age and aggression can be explained by several reasons. Firstly, older people evaluate aggression less acceptable and more harmful (Harris & Knight-Bohnhoff, 1996a/ b). Physical aggression may become increasingly less effective in reaching goals as people age, individuals may acquire new ways of achieving objectives without aggression as they get older, and they may notice better mechanisms of coping with situations that previously provoked anger and hostility. Secondly, since individuals may make different cognitive appraisals about emotional situations as a result of aging, they can manage their emotions effectively (Gross, Carstensen, Pasupathi, Tsai, Skorpen & Hsu, 1997). Effective management of emotions increasing with age may lead to decrease in negative affect experiences like anger (Carstensen, Fung & Charles, 2003; Gross et al., 1997). Higher education might also bring about reductions in aggression, because it makes individuals consider alternative points of view, choose thoughtful emotional responses instead of immediate ones, and plan for longterm goals. It can be stated that both age and education may lead people to review their perceptions and evaluations of aggressive behavior and to become less tolerant of it (Harris & Knight-Bohnhoff, 1996a).

Thus, since aggression is a complex behavior emerging from interactions among various factors (Anderson & Bushman, 2002), predictors of aggressive behaviors are various and these predictors act in a probabilistic manner. That is, these predictors increase the predisposition of individuals to aggression (Satcher, 2001). Therefore, to explain aggression in more detail, previously individually investigated variables such as academic achievement (cumGPA), communication and problem-solving skills, and age of preservice teachers were taken together in multiple variable models. Since there are significant cultural differences among societies as a function of age, and gender (Brehm, Kassin & Fein, 2005), these variables were taken in to account in this study to understand aggression more closely. To comprehend if these variables could contribute to the explanation of aggression, just like in other countries, variables of academic achievement, communication and problem-solving skills, and age were included in the prediction model of aggression.

Because of the differences in the meaning and aim of aggression for females and males, predictors of aggression may vary according to gender. In contrast, maybe no difference can be found between genders as in Green et al.'s (1996) study, where the results indicated that gender difference, which is larger during childhood, becomes smaller among the older participants, especially college students. Because of the liberalization of gender roles, changes in socialization process and cultural norms have emerged so that gender differences have been on the wane. In concrete terms, females during early and middle adulthood experienced a decrease in femininity, and they are more likely to have masculine characteristics such as independence, confidence, assertiveness, and sovereignty (Helson & Moane, 1987). Similarly, males also review themselves and evaluate their traditional masculine characteristics and endorse more feminine characteristics such as nurturance and self-exploration (Livson, 1981). The findings suggest that with increasing age females and males get rid of traditional gender roles, they become more similar and androgynous. Furthermore, individuals' repertoires of coping and defense strategies may be rectified and they can control their impulses and act in response to conflict situations constructively (Carstensen et al., 2003; Gross et al., 1997). Based on these findings to investigate if the patterns explaining aggressive behaviors of females and males differ, predictive validity of predictors for aggression was also examined for each gender separately.

In the literature, communication skills and problem-solving skills were indicated as predictors of aggression, but the same/similar pattern might not be observed in Turkey, because Turkey is a modernizing traditional country (Esmer, 1999). Because of the rapid rate of social changes, the traditional education philosophy that emphasizes the authoritarian role of teachers has been abandoned in the Turkish education system, but most of the teachers have failed to adopt democratic attitudes or to create student-centered classrooms. Authority structure and obedience are thought to be still in charge at Turkish schools (Kagitcibasi & Sunar, 1992; Sahin & Cokadar, 2006) even though they are not observed explicitly. Moreover, teachers' authoritarian attitudes towards aggressive behavior by the use of strict limits, and punishment were encouraged and accepted by parents. All these might prevent teachers from displaying an authoritative style that requires effective use of communication and problem-solving skills during their classes (Sahin & Cokadar, 2006). For this reason, it may be important to include communication skills and problem-solving skills as potential predictors of aggressive behavior of Turkish preservice teachers when studying these phenomena with a regression model. Since student identity is dominant for preservice teachers, they are thought to express more actual information about themselves when asked. In addition, they can be accessed more easily during their preservice education than inservice teachers. Therefore, the contributions of these variables were investigated with preservice teachers.

Method

Participants

The population was composed of 3366 university students attending to Faculty of Education at Anadolu and Osmangazi University that are two universities in Eskisehir, Turkey. 2269 of 3366 total participants were females, 1097 of them were males. Participants from all departments and all grades-freshman, sophomore, junior and senior- were assigned by means of stratified random sampling. 25 % of female (572) and male (281) students from all departments and from all grades were assigned, and hence this study was carried out with 853 participants. Mean of participants' ages was 21.14.

Instruments

Aggression Scale (Tok, 2001). To measure the aggression levels, a 5-point Likert "Aggression Scale" developed by Tuzgol (1998) and adapted to university students by Tok (2001) was applied. This scale consists of 45 items, 30 of which are related to aggressive and 15 of which are related to nonaggressive behaviors. Points obtained from this scale range from 45 to 225. The higher points gathered from the scale indicates higher aggression levels. Correlation coefficient obtained from test-retest reliability by Tok (2001) equals to .83, and Cronbach Alfa coefficient was found as .84. For Alternate (Parallel) Form validity, Tok (2001) calculated the correlation coefficient between this scale and another Aggression Scale and reached the correlation coefficient of .80. This scale has been used frequently in various studies carried out in Turkey.

Communication Skills Evaluation Scale (Korkut, 1999). To measure perceived communication skills of preservice teachers, the Communication Skills Evaluation Scale developed by Korkut (1996) and adapted to university students (Korkut, 1999) was used. This scale is a 5-point Likert scale comprised of 25 items. The highest point obtained from the scale is 125. In reliability studies, test-retest reliability was carried out with a two week interval and the correlation obtained was .78. The Cronbach Alpha coefficient was .86 (Korkut, 1999). In another reliability study carried out by Yuksel-Sahin (1997), data was collected from 120 students with a three week interval and the correlation coefficient between these two measurements was .87. In validity studies, alternate (parallel) form was used and validity coefficient was .52 (Korkut, 1999). In the studies carried out by Yuksel-sahin (1997), alternate (parallel) form was applied and .54 was obtained as a result of a rank correlation.

Problem-solving Inventory, Form A-(PSI-A). PSI-A which was developed by Heppner and Petersen and was adapted to the Turkish population by Sahin, Sahin and Heppner (1993) was employed to evaluate how university students perceive their own problem-solving skills (Savasir & Sahin, 1997). PSI-A consists of 35 items, and the three of them (9th, 22nd and 29th items) are not scored. The lowest and the highest points obtained from this inventory are 32 and 192, respectively. The greater the number of points, the more inadequate the individuals perceive their problem-solving skills. In addition to the points obtained from the subscales, total points obtained from the scale can also be used. In a reliability study, Cronbach Alpha coefficient was .88. Reliability coefficient obtained by means of split-half reliability was .81 (Savasir & Sahin, 1997). In the validity study, criterion related validity was employed and the correlation coefficients between the total points on this scale and Beck Depression Inventory and total points of Spielberger State-Trait Anxiety Inventory (STAI-T) were .33 and .45, in turn (Savasir & Sahin, 1997).

Demographic Information Form. Data on the cumGPA, gender, and age of the participants was collected by means of the demographic information form prepared by the researchers.

Data Collection Procedure

Demographic information form and the other scales of this research were administered in March and April of 2004-2005 spring semester during classes by the researcher. Before administering the survey, explanations about ethical issues such as the confidentiality of their answers and informed consent were stated to the participants, and were guaranteed at the same time. In other words, participants were free not to take part in the study. Therefore, voluntary participants responded the data set during their classes. Filling out the data set took approximately half an hour for the participants.

Data Analysis

Data was analyzed by means of "SPSS 10.0.0 for Windows". To obtain the predictive values of academic achievements, communication skills, problem-solving skills, and ages of preservice teachers, the Stepwise Regression method was employed. In regression, assessment of each independent variable's contribution to the dependent variable may be confounded by the relationship between independent variables. To examine the unique contribution of each independent variable on the dependent variable, it is better to assess and review the squared semi partial correlation. Squared semi partial correlation in stepwise regression equals the amount of variance added to [R.sup.2] when any independent variable was entered into the equation of regression. Therefore, R square change for each independent variable gives information about unique contribution of independent variables to predicting the dependent variable (Tabachnick & Fidell, 2001). Three regression analyses were conducted. Significance level of .05 was accepted for all analyses. The purpose was to examine the first one on which the null hypothesis was built. The second and third analyses (for females and males) were not part of the null hypothesis testing. Rather, they were a more detailed examination of the data. In this regard, the probability value of .05 was not reduced.

Results

I. Findings Related to the Variables Predicting Preservice Teachers' Aggressive Behaviors

This research investigated whether or not the variables of cumG-PA, perceived communication skills, problem-solving skills, and age predict self-reported aggression of preservice teachers. To determine predictive values of these variables, the stepwise regression technique of multiple regression analyses was utilized. Prior to analysis, the assumptions of multivariate analysis were examined. For this aim, Pearson Product Moment correlations between predictor variables and aggression were computed and presented in Table 1.
Table 1

Simple Correlations among the Predictor Variables and Aggressive
                         Behavior (N=853)

      Variable               1      2       3        4         5

1. Aggression              -----  -.09 *  -.60 **  .50 **     .02
2. Academic achievement           -----    .07     .07        .10 *
3. Communication skills                   -----    -.60 **   -.02
4. Problem-solving skills                          -----     -.03
5. Age                                                      -----

*p<.01. **p< .001


As can be seen from Table 1, correlation coefficients between all predictors are below .80. It can be stated that predictors are not highly correlated (Field, 2005). Afterwards, the degree of multicollinearity among the variables was checked by means of Variance Inflation Factor (VIF) and tolerance values. All VIFs (equal to 1.55) were much lower than the suggested upper limit of 10 (Myers, 1990), and tolerance values (equal to .65) are higher than the lowest limit of .20 (Menard, 1995).These values indicated that multicollinearity was not a cause for concern (de Vaus, 2002). In regression analysis, each variable was entered as separate predictors to examine the unique contribution of each variable, and obtained findings are presented in Table 2.
Table 2.

The Findings Related to the Variables Predicting Preservice
             Teachers' Aggressive Behaviors (N=853)

           Model           [beta]   R    [R.sup.2]  [DELTA] [R.sup.2]

1. Communication Skills    -0.60   0.60    0.36           0.359
2. Communication Skills    -0.47
   Problem-solving Skills   0.22   0.63    0.39           0.389

         Model             Change in [R.sup.2]   SE      F

1. Communication Skills         0.360           13.83  478.15 *
2. Communication Skills
   Problem-solving Skills       0.031           13.50  272.20 *

*p<.001


As seen in Table 2, communication skills and problem-solving skills together predict aggressive behaviors significantly (R=0.63, [R.sup.2]=0.39, P< .001). These two variables explain 39 % of the total variance in aggression. As it is seen from model 2, communication skills alone account for 36 % of the total variance and it is the best predictor of aggression. Problem-solving skills explain an additional 3% of the variance with a statistically significant F value (F= 272.20; p<.001). In contrast, cumGPA and age are seen not to predict aggressive behaviors.

II. Findings Related to the Variables Predicting Female and Male Preservice Teachers' Aggressive Behaviors

Another aim of this research was to examine the predictive power of female and male preservice teachers' academic achievement, communication skills, problem-solving skills, and ages on their aggressive behaviors. For this reason, points for female and male preservice teachers were evaluated separately. Analyses were carried out by means of stepwise regression technique of multiple regression analyses. Findings related to the females are presented in Table 3.
Table 3.

The Findings Related to the Variables Predicting Female Preservice
                Teachers' Aggressive Behaviors (N=572)

          Model              [beta]      R         R2        [DELTA]R2

l. Communieation Skills      -0.55      0.55      0.304        0.303
2. Communication Skills      -0.43
   Problem-solving Skills     0.22      0.58      0.337        0.335

          Model              Change in R2     SE         F

l. Communieation Skills         0.304        13.04    249.33 *
2. Communication Skills
   Problem-solving Skills       0.033        12.74    144.51 *

*p< .001


As seen in Table 3, females' communication and problem-solving skills together predict their aggressive behaviors, and explain 34% of the total variance (R= 0.58, [R.sup.2]= 0.34, p<.0001). Communication skills of females explain 30% of the variance, their problem-solving skills contribute 4% to the explanation of the total variance with a statistically significant F value (F= 144.51; p<.001). Academic achievement and ages of females did not predict aggression. Findings related to the males are presented in Table 4.
Table 4.

The Findings Related to the Variables Predicting Male Preservice
                Teachers' Aggressive Behaviors (N=281)

Model                        B       R       R2      [DELTA]R2

1. Communication Skills    -0.61    0.61    0.377      0.374
2. Communication Skills    -0.41
Problem-solving Skills      0.31    0.65    0.426      0.422

Model                      Change in R2     SE         F

1. Communication Skills        0.377       14.99    168.54 *
2. Communication Skills
   Problem-solving Skills      0.050       14.40    103.36 *

*p< .001


When the predictiveness of males' related variables were examined, similar results were obtained. As seen in Table 4, males' communication and problem-solving skills predicted aggressive behaviors significantly (R= 0.65, [R.sup.2]= 0.43, p<.0001). Males' communication and problem-solving skills together explain 43% of the total variance; communication skills alone explain 38% of the variance. Their problem-solving skills can make a 5% contribution to the explanation of the total variance with a statistically significant F value (F= 103.36; p<.001).

Discussion

In this research, the contributions of preservice teachers' academic achievement, communication and problem-solving skills, and age to their aggressive behaviors were investigated. Females' and males' patterns explaining aggressive behaviors were also examined. Findings indicated that communication and problem-solving skills of preservice teachers predicted aggression but their cumGPA and ages did not. This finding is consistent with the findings of the studies reporting that "perspective taking", the basis of communication skills, is a predictor of relational aggression (Loudin, Loukas & Robinson; 2003) and that social problem-solving skills predict aggression (D'Zurilla, Chang & Sanna; 2003). In addition, these findings were supported by the current results showing that communication skills and problem-solving skills when combined were related to aggression (Frey et al., 2000; Webster-Stratton, Reid & Hammond; 2001; Webster-Stratton & Reid; 2003).

The predictive power of communication skills for aggression may be explained by the fact that communication skills are the corner stone of the other skills leading an effectual life (Korkut, 2004; Moote & Wodarski, 1997). Communication skills are also utilized in problem-solving skills training and assure the effective learning of problem-solving skills and the assertive self expression of individuals (Webster-Stratton, Reid & Hammond, 2001).

It can be stated that communication skills minimize misattributions and misunderstandings in interpersonal relationships and consequently may lead to a decrease in aggressive behavior by making unmasked relationship possible. Furthermore, the findings of the studies investigating the relationships between aggressive behaviors and empathic skills as constitutive elements of communication skills support this finding of the research as well (Strayer & Roberts, 2004). Since empathic skills as one of the communication skills lead to the understanding of others' feelings and comprehension of negative consequences of aggressive behaviors for others (Baron & Richardson, 1994; Frey et al., 2000), it can be stated that these skills are negatively related to aggression. Therefore, predictiveness of communication skills may be explicated by its characteristics that enable an individual to defend her/his own rights assertively without hurting others.

The current research findings also showed that problem-solving skills and aggressive behaviors of preservice teachers were related. Seeing that effective problem-solving skills ameliorate the self efficacy of individuals for prosocial behaviors, these skills can activate alternative skills to aggression under conflict situations and strengthen the probability of establishing healthy and efficacious relationships (Loeber & Hay, 1997). Moreover, since effective problem-solving skills prevent individuals from developing negative attitudes toward situations and from becoming anxious, these skills allow them to satisfy their needs without being frustrated by various obstacles and to get higher satisfaction from life and to become happier. In addition, effective problem-solving skills also help individuals to balance their own wishes and the environment's expectations of them (Boxer & Dubow, 2002; Moeller, 2001). As a result, problem-solving skills are said to decrease the probability of displaying aggressive behaviors.

Predictive power of problem-solving skills was found lower than communication skills in the rank of aggression prediction. This may be caused by the fact that controlling effects of problem-solving skills over aggression can not work when individuals reacted instantaneously. In other words, developing prosocial behaviors requires effective problem-solving skills that allow for reviewing behavioral repertoires for alternative behaviors to aggression, making behavioral choices among them, and reviewing each behavioral alternative's applicability and its consequences (Huesmann, 1988). But under crisis, a person's cognitive system tries to save energy and time by simplifying their problem-solving process that is made up of intricate and sophisticated steps during a normal situation. Thus, for a fight or flight reaction, several steps in the problem-solving process are omitted, or fewer alternatives can be recalled, and so forth. That is, when individuals get angry, aggressive behaviors can be displayed reactively disregarding cognitive and problem-solving processes (Lochmann & Dunn, 1993). Therefore, restrictions in one's cognitive system and skipping steps in the problem-solving process may cause an increase in aggressive behaviors. In contrast, elaborative cognitive processing heightens the probability of prosocial and accepted behaviors. Thus, communication skills and problem-solving skills of preservice teachers are two main predictors of aggression.

The finding that academic achievement of preservice teachers did not predict their aggressive behaviors is inconsistent with the findings of some studies (Connor, 2002; Feshbach & Price, 1984; Finn & Frone, 2003; Loveland et al., 2007; Moeller, 2001; Orpinas & Frankowski, 2001; Scott et al., 2001; Swing, 2008; Windle & Windle, 1995). This inconsistency may be caused by the characteristics of the samples in the other studies which consisted of children and adolescents. It can be asserted that although academic achievement or underachievement is interrelated with aggression during the childhood and adolescence periods, the variable of academic achievement loses its predictive power over aggressive behaviors of young adults during university education. For university students, "establishing intimate relationships" get ahead of academic achievement. In other words, changing priorities of young adults lead them to express themselves in different social contexts by engaging in various social activities. Hence, the strength of the predicted relationship between academic achievement and aggression of university students may decrease or disappear due to the limited time they afford for their courses and academic lives.

Preservice teachers' ages also did not predict their aggression. This finding is supported by the findings that there is no relationship between individuals' ages, grade levels and aggression (Ancak, 1995; Demirhan, 2002; Gumus, 2000; Russell & Arms, 1995; Smith & Waterman, 2006; Tuzgol, 1998), and age was not a significant predictor of undergraduates' self reported aggression (Smith & Waterman, 2006). It is not supported by findings of some investigations (Harris, 1996; Harris & Knight-Bohnhoff, 1996a/b; Hyde, 1984; Jehnssen & Engesbak, 1994; Stets & Straus, 1989; Tok, 2001). Closeness of participants' ages in this study may be taken as one of the causes of the finding that age did not predict aggression. When the distribution of participants' ages is taken in to consideration, it is seen that most of the ages are between 19 and 24 years. During young adulthood, age differences wane, that is individuals become similar to each other in terms of general viewpoints about life. Decreases in the age differences as a result of developmental characteristics accelerate widely due to the common goals and experiences university students have. Moreover, similarities of preservice teachers' communication skills and problem-solving skills also seem to explain why significant age differences were not obtained in terms of aggression in this study. This is different from the studies investigating the relationship between the ages and aggressive behaviors of children and adolescents (Richardson & Hammock, 2007).

It was found that both female and male preservice teachers' communication skills and problem-solving skills predicted their aggressive behaviors, but their cumGPA and ages did not. Consequently, it can be stated that the patterns predicting aggressive behaviors of both females and males are the same. Potentiality of communication skills to make individuals express themselves without feeling frustrated and probability of decreasing the perceptional biases and misattributions in interpersonal relationships seem to explain the predictive power of the communication skills of both genders for aggressive behaviors. Also, since problem-solving skills reduce perceptional biases by enabling individuals to see things from different perspectives, problem-solving skills make a significant contribution to the explanation of aggression for both genders.

Most of the university students separating from their families for education share their houses or dormitory rooms with their friends, and that's why both females and males try to control their own aggressive behaviors to form peaceful or smooth environments (Diehl et al., 1996). Efforts of individuals to resolve the conflicts by means of constructive ways (Carstensen et al., 2003; Gross et al., 1997; Harris & Knight-Bohnhoff, 1996a) such as communication skills and problem-solving skills may explain the similarity of females' and males' patterns for explaining aggressive behaviors during university education which is different from during childhood and adolescence periods.

Uniformity of the female and male preservice teachers' patterns related to the variables predicting aggressive behaviors can be explained by the fact that university students are more androgynous combining both feminine and masculine characteristics (Harris & Knight-Bohnhoff, 1996a/b; Helson & Moane, 1987; Livson, 1981). Moreover, decreases in restraints on individuals due to the social environment may lead individuals to act free from gender role stereotypes, and these stereotypes may lose their directive effects on aggressive behaviors during university attendance.

Suggestions and Limitations

These results indicated that communication skills and problem-solving skills of preservice teachers are the primary variables related to aggression. Therefore, strengthening preservice teachers' communication and problem-solving skills during preservice education is very important for the prevention of aggression. For these reasons, to improve communication and problem-solving skills of preservice teachers, workshops can be carried out and theoretical information related to these skills can be put into practice according to the courses' contents. The psychoeducational groups, seminars and conferences intended for ameliorating communication and problem-solving skills should be given more emphasis.

Limitations of this study must be taken in to consideration in interpretation of the results. This study was carried out with preservice teachers at two educational faculties of two universities. This study or a similar study should be carried out with preservice teachers from various universities. Furthermore, this study is relational so the results should be supported by means of experimental studies. In other words, to investigate the effects of communication and problem-solving skills, experimental studies can be carried out. To observe the trends during their education, the variables in this study may be evaluated in the first and last year of their education. To specify if the relationships between aggression and communication skills, problem-solving skills and academic achievement differ according to developmental periods, predictiveness of these variables on aggression might be examined cross-sectionally.

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Yildiz Kurtyilmaz and Gurhan Can Anadolu University, Turkey

This article is a part of master thesis granted by research funds of Anadolu University.

Correspondence to Yildiz Kurtyilmaz, M.A. Research Assistant, Department of Education Sciences, Anadolu University, Yunus Emre Campus, 26470, Turkey; e-mail: ykurtyilmaz@anadolu.edu.tr.
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Author:Kurtyilmaz, Yildiz; Can, Gurhan
Publication:Education & Treatment of Children
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Date:Feb 1, 2010
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