Professor Bram Orobio de Castro

Taking perspective: How understanding children and youth’s self-views and their views of others helps to treat aggressive behaviour problems

Aggressive and rule breaking behavior problems place a burden on children, their relatives, and society. Early intervention with parents, teachers, and children’s social cognitions has been proven effective, but effects are modest and differ markedly between children and families. To increase effectiveness of intervention it may be crucial to better understand how children and youth themselves view the social interactions that elicit their problematic behaviours. 

Bram Orobio de Castro

In essence, we have learned that aggressive and rule breaking behaviors are generally surprisingly ‘logical’ behaviors from the perspectives of children who commit them, while there are important individual differences between children in the perspective they take. Some children have – through experience and temperament – developed a disposition to be overly sensitive to social threats like being rejected or treated unjustly. For these children so-called reactive aggression appears to be a logical defensive or retaliating response to perceived threats. Other children have – through conditioning, modeling, and temperament – come to feel entitled to proactively take advantage, manipulate or fight with lesser others when an opportunity to do so arises.

And yet others appear to be easily manipulated into problematic behaviors because – through cognitive and emotional limitations – they do not appear to oversee the situations they are in and the consequences of their behaviors. Last but not least, many children seem to be quite accurate in feeling neglected and treated unjustly in families with multiple problems, understaffed treatment facilities, or socially unsafe school climates.

Interestingly, these strikingly different perspectives of youth seem to have clear implications for prevention and intervention tailored to children’s individual perspectives. They also seem to provide a wake-up call to involve their perspectives in improving our educational and mental health care systems.


Bram Orobio de Castro (1970) is full professor of Developmental Psychopathology at the University of Amsterdam’s (UvA) Faculty of Social and Behavioural Sciences.

In his research, Bram focuses on the development of aggressive behavior problems in children, and how these problems can be prevented or treated most effectively. He hopes his research will lead him to find and effectively influence maintaining factors in problematic child development.

With his groups, he contributed to development, evaluation, and implementation of effective interventions for children, schools, parents, and families facing adversities.