Academic journal article School Psychology Review

Changing Adolescents' Attitudes about Relational and Physical Aggression: An Early Evaluation of a School-Based Intervention. (Special Topic)

Academic journal article School Psychology Review

Changing Adolescents' Attitudes about Relational and Physical Aggression: An Early Evaluation of a School-Based Intervention. (Special Topic)

Article excerpt


A pilot study evaluating the Second Step, Middle School/Junior High[R]program was conducted to determine its effect on students' attitudes regarding aggression and perceived difficulty of performing social skills. Sixth-through eighth-grade students (N = 714) were surveyed before and after the program was implemented by teachers in intervention classrooms. Second Step students were taught curricular modules corresponding to their year in middle/junior high school. Program effects were tested using a repeated measures design. Relative to nonparticipants, Second Step students in their second year of school decreased in their overall endorsement of aggression and perceived difficulty of performing social skills. Program effects were less consistent for those in their first year of middle/junior high school. Additional research is needed to investigate program effects under varying conditions (e.g., lesson quality, pacing of lessons) and with long-term exposure.


The long-term sequelae of childhood aggressive behavior have been extensively studied. They include delinquency, substance abuse, depression, school drop out, and early parenthood (Cairns, Cairns, & Neckerman, 1989; Farrington, 1991; Lochman & Lenhart, 1994; Patterson, Reid, & Dishion, 1992; Rubin, Chen, McDougall, Bowker, & McKinnon, 1995). In most of these studies, aggression is synonymous with physical aggression, much less common among girls than boys. Recent work has also associated negative consequences with relational aggression, more typical of girls than physical aggression.

Relational aggression refers to covertly inflicted damage that compromises the victim's peer relationships and social standing (e.g., ostracism, malicious gossip) (Crick & Grotpeter, 1995). Like physical aggression, relational aggression is stable over time (see review by Coie & Dodge, 1998), predicts peer rejection (Crick, 1996; Rys & Bear, 1997; Tomada & Schneider, 1997), and is associated with maladaptive friendship patterns (Grotpeter & Crick, 1996).

Given the poor trajectory for aggressive children, there has been considerable interest in prevention efforts, although these have also tended to focus primarily on reducing physical aggression. Crick and Dodge's (1994) model of social interaction suggests that similar processes underlie physical and relational aggression and that promoting prosocial skill development may help reduce reliance on both types of aggression. According to the model, potential for aggression is higher when individuals have (a) deficits in social information-processing, and (b) attitudes that support the use of aggression or undermine the use of constructive alternatives.

Attitudes Associated With Aggression

Initial research in this area indicates that hostile attribution biases (the tendency to presume another's malicious intent in an ambiguous social situation) are characteristic of relationally aggressive (Crick, 1995) as well as physically aggressive children (Dodge, 1980; Slaby & Guerra, 1988). More information is particularly needed on the social cognitions of relationally aggressive children.

Attitudes characteristic of physically aggressive children appear to affect an individual's choice of goals and evaluation of possible responses in a given situation. Thus, beliefs that aggression is an effective way to avoid a bad image or that there are no real alternatives to aggression can legitimize the use of physical aggression (Crane-Ross, Tisak, & Tisak, 1998; Erdley & Asher, 1998; Guerra & Slaby, 1990; Slaby & Guerra, 1988). Aggressive youths' self-appraisal also contributes to their inappropriate behavior. They see themselves as relatively inept at managing their anger and aggression (Perry, Perry, & Rasmussen, 1986; Shure & Spivack, 1976; Slaby & Guerra, 1988), yet more effective than their nonaggressive peers at using physical aggression to achieve goals (Crick & Dodge, 1989; Perry et al. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed


An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.