Psychology Ph.D. Dissertations

Theory of Mind, Social Information Processing, and Children's Social Behavior

Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)



First Advisor

Eric Dubow

Second Advisor

Dara Musher-Eizenman (Committee Co-Chair)

Third Advisor

Molly Laflin (Committee Member)

Fourth Advisor

Mary Hare (Committee Member)


Aggression and prosocial behavior have been shown to have important implications for later social adjustment for children (see Parker & Asher, 1987 for a review). Social information processing, including children's social goals, predicts children's aggressive and prosocial behaviors (Crick, 1995; Crick & Werner, 1998; Delveaux & Daniels, 2000; Dodge, 1980; Nelson & Crick, 1999). Less is known about whether another social cognitive variable, theory of mind, relates to children's social behaviors. The current study sought to elucidate the relations among theory of mind, social goals, and children's teacher-, peer-, and self-rated physical aggression, relational aggression, and prosocial behavior. Seventy children between the ages of 8 to 10 completed measures of theory of mind and social goals, and rated themselves and their peers on social behaviors. Their teachers also completed ratings for each child's aggressive and prosocial behavior. Results indicated that theory of mind skills and social goals are related in some instances to physical aggression, relational aggression, and prosocial behavior. However, the source of the rating (i.e., teacher, peer or self), especially in regards to relational aggression, conditioned the results. There were also gender differences. Further research should take gender and the rater into consideration, as well as other potentially important aspects of social information processing in the prediction of children's aggression and prosocial behavior. It also is important to examine other types of aggressive behavior, such as verbal aggression.