Since relational aggression is still a relatively new topic among scholars, there is not an abundant amount of research on it. According to one editorial for the Applied Developmental Psychology journal, “the focus on relational aggression…has been rapidly expanding in the past 15 years.” (Ostrov & Crick, 2006, p. 189). There has been a greater focus on studies dealing with aggressive behavior (i.e. physical violence) among adolescents than the covert, indirect ways of relational aggression. “The extant empirical literature [on relational aggression] focuses in the arena of basic research” (Young, Boye, & Nelson, 2006, p. 307) leaves a great need for data gathered from studies based on interventions. Therefore, many of the articles that I have read on relational aggression offer theories as to what it is, what its causes are, and possible ways to prevent it from occurring. However, few of these theories have been tested.
In the articles written by Yoon, Barton, and Taiarol (2004), Young, Boye, and Nelson (2006), and Merrell, Buchanan, and Tran (2006) relational aggression is discussed in terms of its implications for schools. In other words, it is defined based on prior research and analyzed to show that it is harmful and that there needs to be something done at the school level. All three articles refer to relational aggression as “behaviors that harm others through damage (or the threat of damage) to relationships or feelings of acceptance, friendship or group inclusion” (Crick et al., 1999, p. 77). The definitions of indirect and social aggression are included in the discussions of these articles as well. Suggestions are made in all three articles that education needs to be available to adults dealing with adolescents, as well as for adolescents themselves regarding relational aggression.
Yoon, Barton, and Taiarol state that there is “limited discussion…regarding prevention and intervention issues that educators face” (2004, p. 304), yet still feel that there is a need for intervention. Merrell, Buchanan, and Tran find that administrators, teachers and other staff should be educated and trained in dealing with relational aggression and intervention techniques should be careful not to focus only relational aggression, but rather to promote positive social behaviors and attitudes among students (2006). Young, Boye, and Nelson state that “summarizing what is known about relational aggression is difficult because disparate findings have been reported, different constructs have been used in the research, and developmental differences are evident” (2006, p. 302). This leaves one searching for the interventions and studies that have been done.
Goldstein and Tisak from Bowling Green University in Ohio, conducted a study to determine whether or not adolescents accept parental and/or peer authority over relational aggression. The sample included 53 males and 50 females ranging in age from 11 to 15 years old from three public schools in Southeast Michigan and Northwest Ohio. Participants were asked a series of questions in which they rated the acceptability of parents and peers involving themselves in situations of relational aggression. One result of this study found that while most adolescents did not accept parental or peer regulation in relationally aggressive behaviors, they thought that it was necessary and acceptable for parents to regulate physical aggression.
In a study done by Owens, Slee, and Shute (2000), the effects of indirect aggression were studied among 54 tenth grade girls and five teachers in South Australia. They used interviews to qualitatively assess the girls’ feelings about, ways of dealing with, and reaction to different scenarios of indirect aggression. They found that most girls were unsure of how to handle indirect aggression effectively. Most retaliated, spoke one on one with the aggressor, or used the telephone to work through the issue. The purpose of this study was to look qualitatively at the quantitative research already done by Crick and colleagues (Crick & Bigbee, 1998; Crick and Grotpeter, 1995), as well as, Galen & Underwood (1997). Based on the findings of this study, interventions dealing with indirect aggression are important.
Crick, N.R. and Bigbee, M.A. (1998). Relational and Overt Forms of Peer Victimization: A Multi-Informant Approach. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 66(2), 337-347.
Crick, N.R. and Grotpeter, J.K. (1995). Relational Aggression, Gender, and Social-Psychological Adjustment. Child Development, 66, 710-22.
Crick, N.R., Werner, N.E., Casas J.F., O’Brien, K.M., Nelson, D. A., Grotpeter, J.K., et al. (1999). Childhood Aggression and Gender: A New Look at an Old Problem. In D. Berstein (Ed.), Nebraska Symposium on Motivation 45, 77-140. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press.
Galen, B.R. and Underwood, M.K. (1997). A Developmental Investigation of Social Aggression Among Children. Developmental Psychology 33(4), 589-600.
Goldstein, S.E. & Tisak, M.S. (2006). Early Adolescents’ Conception of Parental and Friend Authority Over Relational Aggression. Journal of Early Adolescence, 26(3), 344-364.
Merrell, K.W., Rohanna, B. & Tran, O.K. (2006). Relational Aggression in Children and Adolescents: A Review with Implications for School Settings. Psychology in the Schools, 43(3), 345-360.
Ostrov, J.M. & Crick, N.R. (2006). How recent developments in the study of relational aggression and close relationships in early childhood advance the field. Applied Developmental Psychology, 27, 189-192.
Owens, L., Slee, P., and Shute, R. (2000). ‘It Hurts a Hell of a Lot…’ The Effects of Indirect Aggression of Teenage Girls. School Psychology International 21(4), 359-376.
Yoon, J.S., Barton, E. & Taiariol, J. (2004). Relational Aggression in Middle School: Educational Implications of Developmental Research. Journal of Early Adolescence, 24(3), 303-318.
Young, E.L., Boye, A.E. & Nelson, D.A. (2006). Relational Aggression: Understanding, Identifying, and Responding in Schools. Psychology in the School, 43(3), 297-312.