Psychosocial correlates of relational and overt aggression in preschool children

Lorraine Ann Simon, Fordham University


The present investigation examined relational aggression—a form of aggression involving relationship manipulation—in a sample of 135 preschool-age children. This investigation was designed to replicate and extend past research on gender differences in relational aggression in preschool participants. The results showed that teachers were better able to identify and report on relational aggression than were peers. In addition, relational aggression scores was moderately significantly related to overt aggression, and prosocial behavior scores. There was little correspondence between teacher and peer ratings of relational aggression, teacher-assessed relational aggression and peer-assessed relational aggression were not significantly related. The current research found no significant difference between boys and girls relational aggression scores. In addition, when extreme groups (i.e., children who scored one standard deviation above the mean on either the relational aggression scale, the overt aggression scale, or both scales) were examined, gender differences in relational aggression and overt aggression were not found, but significantly more boys than girls were identified as being both highly relationally and overtly aggressive. With a focus on relational aggression, this study explored whether relational aggression was associated with psychosocial adjustment difficulties at home and school. The results showed little correspondence between teachers' and parents' evaluation of relationally aggressive children's psychosocial adjustment. Teachers perceived relational aggression to be associated with psychosocial adjustment problems, while parents did not. In addition, peer and teacher ratings of acceptance were not significantly related to relational aggression. Finally, cognitive and affective correlates of relational aggression were examined. Relational aggression was significantly positively related to manipulative problem-solving solutions for girls and unexpectedly to flexibility in problem-solving for boys. Additionally, relational aggression was significantly related to affective perspective-taking for boys. Finally, relational aggression was not significantly related to expressive vocabulary scores for either boys or girls. The results of this investigation suggest that relational aggression appears to be a meaningful construct worthy of further investigation.

Subject Area

Behaviorial sciences|Social psychology|Preschool education

Recommended Citation

Simon, Lorraine Ann, "Psychosocial correlates of relational and overt aggression in preschool children" (2002). ETD Collection for Fordham University. AAI3037230.