Journal of Youth and Adolescence

, Volume 34, Issue 3, pp 229–243

Normative Beliefs and Relational Aggression: An Investigation of the Cognitive Bases of Adolescent Aggressive Behavior


DOI: 10.1007/s10964-005-4306-3

Cite this article as:
Werner, N.E. & Nixon, C.L. J Youth Adolescence (2005) 34: 229. doi:10.1007/s10964-005-4306-3


The relations between normative beliefs about different forms of aggression and corresponding aggressive behaviors were investigated in 2 studies of adolescents. In Study 1, we revised an instrument designed to assess normative beliefs about aggression to include beliefs about the acceptability of relational aggression, and we examined the psychometric properties of the instrument. In Studies 1 and 2, the unique associations of normative beliefs about relational and physical aggression with self-reported relational and physical aggression were examined. Findings across both studies revealed that beliefs-behavior associations were specific to aggression forms. In other words, beliefs about relational aggression were uniquely associated with engagement in relationally aggressive acts, whereas beliefs about physical aggression, but not relational aggression, contributed unique information about adolescents’ level of physical aggression. No gender effects were found. Results are discussed within a social-cognitive framework, and implications are explored for future prevention and intervention efforts to reduce aggressive behaviors.


aggressionsocial cognitionadolescence

Copyright information

© Springer Science + Business Media, Inc. 2005

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Human Development at Washington State UniversityPullman
  2. 2.Department of Psychology at Penn State ErieThe Behrend College
  3. 3.Washington State UniversityPullman