This study examined how sports intervention may reduce aggressive behaviors in children (Grades 3–6), focusing on the relations between acquisition of self-control skills (SCSs) and aggressive behavior through the mediation of thoughts (i.e., hostility) and emotions (i.e., positive and negative). In a sample of 649 Israeli children, 50% were assigned to an experimental group and the remainder to a waitlisted control group. As hypothesized, children in the experimental group reported significantly larger gains in SCSs and significantly larger decreases in physical aggression, hostile thoughts, and negative emotions.
Results of structural equation modeling suggested that SCS gains were linked to changes in hostile thoughts, as mediated by changes in both positive and negative emotions. In addition, changes in hostile thoughts were linked to changes in physical aggression through the mediation of changes in anger. Among girls, changes in SCSs were linked directly to changes in physical aggression (with no indirect effect), whereas among boys, changes in SCSs were linked indirectly to changes in physical aggression, through changes in positive and negative emotions. Findings contribute to understanding of possible mechanisms underlying the associations between children's self-control and aggression, with particular implications for the roles of positive and negative emotions.