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Relational Aggression In Females

Updated: Mar 6, 2022

I wrote this paper in 2016. I am sharing it for anyone interested in psychology. I have tried to preserve the format as much I can. The style is APA. This is a critical review. I suggest you read the paper I have cited in references before you read my review of it.


Risk Factors for Relational Aggression: Variability in both Genders

Ujjwal Anand


Psychology of Adolescence



Aggression in any dictionary conveys nearly the same concept. However, psychologists have divided aggression into various forms. One of those forms is Relational Aggression (RA). An expression of RA aims to damage the victim’s relationship or social status. The perpetrator does not engage with the victim directly though. Generally, males are portrayed as overtly aggressive (Loflin & Berry, 2016) while females as cunningly aggressive (RA). However, both males and females tend to exercise RA to some extent (qtd in Loflin & Berry, 2016, 22). In this study, Dr. Della C. Loflin from Auburn University and Dr. Christopher T. Barry from Washington State University extended previous research on social risk factors for RA and examined whether similar behavioral aspects relate to RA in both genders.


The researchers hypothesized that self-­reported and peer-­nominated RA are moderately related; gender would be the moderating variable in the relationship between social intelligence and RA; low self­-reported peer status in males would be positively related to self­-reported RA and negatively related to peer-­nominated RA; higher self­-reported peer status in females would be associated with higher RA.



217 male and 41 female dropouts, aged 16-­19, attending a voluntary 22 ­week military-­style youth residential program, participated in the study. Majority of them were white.


They chose an “at­-risk sample” from the resident sample because it may show more variety of aggression over community or detained samples (Loflin & Berry, 2016, 22). It also offers insights into how RA works in close-­nit peer groups. Both assumptions were research-supported. Peer report of RA was assumed to be an appropriate reflection of the sample.

Assessments and Measures

For the purpose of the study, four measures were administered. First, Peer Conflict Scale sought self­-proclaimed ratings (10 points scale) on a sundry of aggressive behaviors. Second, in Peer nomination of RA, the participants nominated up to three peers on 15 attributions, out of which four were explicit signs of RA. Third, Tromso Social Intelligence Scale consisted of three “subscales”: Social Information Processing, Social Skill, and Social Awareness. It asked for the participants’ reflection of their own social abilities and skills (7 point scales). Fourth, Personality Inventory for Youth captured, in true­-false format, the participants’ self-­reported “functioning in a variety of behavioral, emotional, and social domains” (Loflin & Berry, 2016, 24).


Self-­reported RA and peer-­nominated RA were not significantly correlated. In females, higher perceived social intelligence was found to be related to self-­reported RA. Limited peer status and peer­-nominated RA were not found to be significantly related to self-­reported RA in both genders. However, self-­reported social intelligence was found to be related to RA. This relationship was found to be significant for females, not so for males. Thus, gender was indeed the moderating factor.



The at-­risk sample was specifically residential. The participants were predominantly male. With more females, the relationship between perceived social intelligence and RA could have been less steep. Risk factors for RA could have had broader, more diverse samples (Loflin & Berry, 2016, 22). The measures used might have failed to completely capture RA. Then, the TSIS Social Skills scale had poor internal consistency, which suggests problems in self-­reflecting “social adeptness” (Loflin & Berry, 2016, 25).

Contribution to Relational Aggression

Assuming that the limitations did not impact the study enough for it to yield inaccurate results, the invalidation of the first hypothesis does provide an insight into how wrong peers judge. While we may assume that peers or friends sometimes know about us and our behaviors more than ourselves, peer-­report and self­-report on RA are clearly not coherent. This may also mean that adolescents judge themselves wrong, while the peers are right. The second result that limited peer status is not related to self-­related or peer­-related RA points towards how people, here the researchers, wrongly assume that nerds, dorks, or simply introverts exhibit RA because they are frustrated by their social status. However, they can be completely fine and may have no aggressive inclinations. The last result that social intelligence in females relates to RA raises the next question: why?


The last result seems to be the only significant part of the study. People generally attribute RA to women. These views are partly imposed by the media, as several television programs and movies portray women planning and plotting behind people’s backs


while being friendly in front of them. This gender difference raises many questions. Are girls born predisposed to RA? One can intuitively deny it because such behavioral differences seem to be hardly noticeable in kids, though one must admit that such assumption can be inherently wrong. However, if this difference is engendered while growing up, a huge possibility of research evades us. Girls may be fulfilling the expectations the media puts on them (Self­-fulfilling prophesy). Whenever mean girls in movies achieve something by planning and plotting, female viewers probably get vicariously conditioned. They may feel as if they can achieve things like social acceptance using RA. Subsequently, if they do engage in RA in school and achieve rewards, then the problem is even worse: operant conditioning. Similarly, there can be many explanations for the gender difference found in the study. Future studies should look into what is making girls engage more in RA and if something can be done to reduce RA in both boys and girls.



Loflin, D. C., & Barry, C. T. (2016). ‘You can't sit with us:’ Gender and the differential roles of

social intelligence and peer status in adolescent relational aggression. Personality &

Individual Differences, 9122­26. doi:10.1016/j.paid.2015.11.048.

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