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A tendency to resist complying with directions or suggestions.

Negativism is a behavior characterized by the tendency to resist direction from others, and the refusal to comply with requests. Negativism appears and wanes at various stages of a person's development. Active negativism, that is, behavior characterized by doing the opposite of what is being asked, is commonly encountered with young children. For example, a parent may ask a toddler to come away from the playground to return home; on hearing these instructions, the toddler demonstrates active negativism by running away.

Studies have revealed that negativism develops during the first year of life, and resurfaces during toddlerhood and again during adolescence. Negativism is used by adolescents as a way to assert their autonomy from their parents and to control their own behavior. When negativism does not diminish, it becomes a characteristic of the individual's personality. Negativism is an aspect of one of the essential features of oppositional-defiant disorder, characterized by a pattern of behavior that is defiant, negativistic, and hostile toward authority figures.

Further Reading

Baker, Lynne Rudder. Explaining Attitudes: A Practical Approach to the Mind. New York: Cambridge University Press, 1995.

Eagly, Alice Hendrickson. The Psychology of Attitudes. Fort Worth, TX: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1993.

Wenar, Charles. "On Negativism." Human Development 25, January-February 1982, pp. 1-23.

Additional topics

Psychology EncyclopediaPsychological Dictionary: Ibn Bajjah (Abu-Bakr Muhammad ibn-Yahya ibn-al-Saʼigh, c.1106–38) Biography to Perception: cultural differences