Empirical validation of a model of social competence and aggression for adolescents

Jacquelyn Doran-Cunningham, Fordham University


Theoretical models of social competence and aggression among adolescents in the peer milieu within the school context enhance school-based and peer-based prevention and intervention practices. Examining social competence and aggression among urban, low socioeconomic status adolescents is especially important, given their exposure to stressors such as crime and gang-related violence. This study investigated the factor patterns and structural parameters of three models of social competence and aggression. One hundred and ninety-three culturally diverse, low socioeconomic ninth- and tenth-grade adolescents completed measures assessing (a) individual differences (self reports of agreeableness, self-regulation, and social problem-solving), (b) peer social status (peer nominations of likeability, perceived popularity, and social dominance) and (c) aggression (self reports and peer nominations of relational and overt aggression). Unidimensional, hierarchical, and multitrait, multimethod models of social competence and aggression models were tested via structural equation modeling. When the hypothesized models failed to converge, three new models of adolescent social functioning that were based on a theory of social dominance were proposed and tested: (a) prosocial, (b) coercive, and (c) bistrategic (combination of prosocial and coercive behaviors). The coercive model fit the data best, followed by the bistrategic model. The prosocial model held little explanatory value. The results suggested that a limited number of behaviors such as spreading rumors or being physically aggressive resulted in peer perceptions of popularity and social dominance, whereas a multitude of other behaviors likely influence peer perceptions of likeability. Implications for school-based and peer-based interventions were discussed.

Subject Area

Social psychology|Educational psychology|Developmental psychology

Recommended Citation

Doran-Cunningham, Jacquelyn, "Empirical validation of a model of social competence and aggression for adolescents" (2009). ETD Collection for Fordham University. AAI3361467.