Enemies and the Darker Side of Peer Relations

Enemies and the Darker Side of Peer Relations

Enemies and the Darker Side of Peer Relations

Enemies and the Darker Side of Peer Relations


The darker side of peer relations is subject that has been largely ignored by researchers. This volume begins the much-needed theoretical and empirically based explorations of the factors involved in the foremation, maintenance, and impact of enemies and other mutual antipathies.

Using diverse samples, the chapter authors provide an empirically based exposition of factors relevant to the formation and maintenance of these relations, as well as their developmental impact. Both distal (for example, attachment styles with parents, community violence exposure) and proximal (for example, perceptions of enemies' behavior, social structure of the peer group) factors related to inimical relations are explored, and the developmental sequelaw (for example, affective, behavioral, interpersonal) of having enemies are examined with concurrent and longitudinal designs.


The study of peers who dislike one another, termed
mutual antipathies, is being recognized as an important
aspect of a child's social world. An overview of this area
is provided, along with a focus on one particular type of
antipathy, enemies

Maurissa Abecassis

At one time or another, probably all of us have had a classmate, a boss, or an acquaintance whom we did not like and were convinced that the feeling was mutual. Although people may shy away from talking about these kinds of relationships, they may not be rare. Negative emotion, aversion, avoidance, and even hatred are as central to the human experience as love, caring, and affiliation. Antipathy is a term used to refer to a broad category of relationships, rooted in dislike and aversion, in which two peers reciprocally dislike one another (Abecassis, 1999). Inasmuch as friendships are contexts for growth and development, the same can be said of mutual antipathies. Antipathies—and enemies as one important type of antipathy— are organizers of experience that inform us about a person's identity, motivations, values, beliefs, emotions, and thoughts.

In the past several years, public awareness of antipathies has risen in prominence. Antipathies are commonly discussed in the political arena (particularly in the aftermath of the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001), in the world of sports, in both classic literary works and stories for children, and in discussions about school shootings. Given the ubiquity of references to antipathies, and to enmity more specifically, it is surprising that these relationships have only recently begun to be studied. There are good reasons to be interested in studying all types of antipathies. One of them is an emerging recognition that our understanding of the child's social world is incomplete without knowledge of how “dark relationships” based on dislike and aversion are integrated into the child's social experience (Abecassis . . .

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