Relational aggression, gender, and social-psychological adjustment

Child Dev. 1995 Jun;66(3):710-22. doi: 10.1111/j.1467-8624.1995.tb00900.x.


Prior studies of childhood aggression have demonstrated that, as a group, boys are more aggressive than girls. We hypothesized that this finding reflects a lack of research on forms of aggression that are relevant to young females rather than an actual gender difference in levels of overall aggressiveness. In the present study, a form of aggression hypothesized to be typical of girls, relational aggression, was assessed with a peer nomination instrument for a sample of 491 third-through sixth-grade children. Overt aggression (i.e., physical and verbal aggression as assessed in past research) and social-psychological adjustment were also assessed. Results provide evidence for the validity and distinctiveness of relational aggression. Further, they indicated that, as predicted, girls were significantly more relationally aggressive than were boys. Results also indicated that relationally aggressive children may be at risk for serious adjustment difficulties (e.g., they were significantly more rejected and reported significantly higher levels of loneliness, depression, and isolation relative to their nonrelationally aggressive peers).

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adaptation, Psychological*
  • Aggression*
  • Child
  • Depression / psychology
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Loneliness
  • Male
  • Peer Group
  • Sex Factors
  • Social Adjustment*
  • Social Isolation