Adolescents' social reasoning about relational aggression

Sara E. Goldstein, Marie S. Tisak

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

21 Scopus citations


We examined early adolescents' reasoning about relational aggression, and the links that their reasoning has to their own relationally aggressive behavior. Thinking about relational aggression was compared to thinking about physical aggression, conventional violations, and personal behavior. In individual interviews, adolescents (N = 103) rated the acceptability of relational aggression, physical aggression, conventional violations, and personal behavior, and justified their ratings. Results indicated that adolescents' views about relational aggression are complex. Although gossip was viewed as very wrong (comparable to beliefs about physical aggression), exclusion was perceived to be somewhat acceptable (less wrong than conventional violations, but more wrong than personal behaviors). With regard to associations between beliefs about aggression and aggressive behavior, the results indicated that beliefs about gossip were associated with gossiping behavior, and that beliefs about physical aggression were associated with physically aggressive behavior. No links emerged between beliefs about exclusion and exclusionary behavior. Implications and suggestions for future research are discussed within the frameworks of social domain theory and social information processing models of aggressive behavior.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)471-482
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of Child and Family Studies
Issue number4
StatePublished - 2010


  • Aggression
  • Early adolescence
  • Peer relationships
  • Social cognition
  • Social reasoning


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