The role of aggression in peer relations: an analysis of aggression episodes in boys' play groups

Child Dev. 1991 Aug;62(4):812-26. doi: 10.1111/j.1467-8624.1991.tb01571.x.


Although aggression is frequently cited as a major cause of peer social rejection, no more than half of all aggressive children are rejected. Aggressive episode data from experimental play groups of 7- and 9-year-old black males were coded to examine whether qualitative aspects of aggressive behavior, as well as frequency of aggression, determine the relation between aggressiveness and peer rejection. Reactive aggression and bullying were related to peer status among 9-year-olds, but not 7-year-olds, whereas instrumental aggression was characteristic of highly aggressive, rejected boys at both ages. Qualitative features of aggressive interaction suggested a greater level of hostility toward peers and a tendency to violate norms for aggressive exchange among rejected, aggressive boys at both ages in contrast to other groups of boys. The descriptive data provide a distinctive picture of reactive, instrumental, and bullying aggression as well as differing social norms for target and aggressor behavior in each of these 3 types of aggression.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Age Factors
  • Aggression / psychology*
  • Analysis of Variance
  • Child
  • Child Behavior / psychology*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Observer Variation
  • Peer Group*
  • Rejection, Psychology
  • Sex Factors
  • Videotape Recording