, Volume 17, Issue 4, pp 455-471

Reactive and proactive aggression in childhood: Relations to peer status and social context dimensions

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Abstract

Although there has been an accumulation of evidence to suggest a link between peer-directed aggression and social rejection, little attention has been given to the relations between specific subtypes of aggressive behavior and social rejection. The purpose of this investigation was to examine the relations between two subtypes of aggressive behavior (reactive and proactive aggression) and children's classroom peer status. The reciprocity of each of these subtypes of aggressive behavior and the social contexts in which these behaviors occur were also examined. Assessments of each of these forms of aggression among 70 boys (ages 5 and 6) were conducted using direct observations and teacher ratings. In general, directing reactive aggressive behavior toward peers was associated with social rejection, while utilization of instrumental aggression was positively related to peer status. The findings also indicated that directing proactive forms of aggression toward peers was related to being the target of proactive aggression. Finally, among older boys, both subtypes of aggression were more likely to occur during rough play than during any other type of play activity.