Prospective Associations between Aggression/Bullying and Adjustment in Preschool: Is General Aggression Different from Bullying Behavior?
In the current paper, two short-term longitudinal studies were conducted to examine relational aggression and relational bullying as differential predictors of relational victimization and health-related outcomes (i.e., social maladjustment problems). In Study 1, teachers completed reports of preschoolers’ (N = 124; M age = 44.88 months; SD = 4.52; 41.1% girls) physical and relational aggression, bullying behavior, and peer victimization at two time points. Hierarchical models revealed that, consistent with study hypotheses, relational aggression but not relational bullying predicted increases in relational victimization. Study 2 (N = 105; M age = 46.78 months; SD = 7.47; 52.4% girls) improved upon several limitations of Study 1 by having multiple informants and addressing collinearity concerns. Specifically, two variables were created, relational severity and relational directionality, reflecting the commonalities and differences between relational aggression and relational bullying respectively. Results of Study 2 generally replicated the overall pattern of findings of Study 1 with a more conservative model. Results indicated that relational directionality tended to be negatively associated with increases in social maladjustment problems. These results suggest that, relative to relational bullying, relational aggression tended to be associated with increases in social maladjustment problems. These findings provide support for distinguishing between subtypes of both aggression and bullying behavior (i.e., physical and relational) in the developmental literature.
KeywordsRelational aggression Relational bullying Early childhood Social maladjustment problems
We thank the UB Social Development Lab for their assistance with the two studies reported in this manuscript. We are grateful to the families, teachers, and administrators of participating schools. The second author is now at the Research Institute on Addictions, University at Buffalo. The fifth author is now at the Department of Psychological Science, University of Arkansas.
This study (Study 1) was funded by the National Science Foundation (BCS-1450777) as well as supplementary funding from the Baruch Family Foundation to the first author. Study 2 was funded in part by the Mark Diamond Fund to the second author. The content is solely the responsibility of the authors and does not necessarily represent the official view of the National Science Foundation or other funders.
J.M.O. designed and executed the studies, conducted the data analyses, and collaborated in the writing and editing of the manuscript. K.K.-D. assisted with the design, collection, and coordination of Study 2 and collaborated in the writing and editing of the manuscript. S.B.-M. assisted with the design, collection, and coordination of both studies and collaborated in the writing and editing of the manuscript. K.J.P. assisted with the collection and execution of Study 1 and collaborated in the writing and editing of the manuscript. L.M. was the project coordinator for Study 1 and collaborated in the writing and editing of the manuscript.
Compliance with Ethical Standards
Conflict of Interest
The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.
All procedures performed in studies involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institutional research committee at the University at Buffalo, The State University of New York and with the 1964 Helsinki declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards.
Informed consent was obtained from all individual participants included in the study. Prospective associations between aggression/bullying and adjustment in preschool: Is general aggression different from bullying behavior?
- Bierman, K. L. (2004). Peer Rejection: Developmental Processes and Intervention Strategies. New York, NY: Guilford Press.Google Scholar
- Boivin, M., Hymel, S., & Hodges, E. V. E. (2001). Toward a process view of peer rejection and harassment. In M. Putallaz & K. L. Bierman (Eds.), Aggression, antisocial behavior, and violence among girls: A developmental perspective (pp. 265–289). New York, NY: Guilford.Google Scholar
- Bradshaw, C. P., Waasdorp, T. E., & Johnson, S. L. (2015). Overlapping verbal, relational, physical, and electronic forms of bullying in adolescence: Influence of school context. Journal of Clinical Child and Adolescent Psychology, 44, 494–508. https://doi.org/10.1080/15374416.2014.893516.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
- Eisner, M. P. & Malti, T. (2015). Aggressive and violent behavior. In R. M. Lerner (Series Ed.) & M. E. Lamb (Vol. Ed.), Handbook of child psychology and developmental science: Vol. 3. Socioemotional processes (7th ed., pp. 795–884). New York, NY: Wiley. https://doi.org/10.1002/9781118963418.childpsy319
- Essex, M. J., Klein, M. H., Cho, E., & Kraemer, H. C. (2003). Exposure to maternal depression and marital conflict: Gender differences in children’s later mental health symptoms. Journal of the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry, 42, 728–737. https://doi.org/10.1097/01.CHI.0000046849.56865.1D.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
- Felix, E. D., Sharkey, J. D., Green, J. G., Furlong, M. J., & Tanigawa, D. (2011). Getting precise and pragmatic about the assessment of bullying: The development of the California Bullying Victimization Scale. Aggressive Behavior, 37, 234–247. https://doi.org/10.1002/ab.20389.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
- Giesbrecht, G. F., Leadbeater, B. J., & MacDonald, S. W. S. (2011). Child and context characteristics in trajectories of physical and relational victimization among early elementary school children. Development and Psychopathology, 23, 239–252. 10.1017=S0954 579410000763.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
- Gladden, R. M., Vivolo-Kantor, A. M., Hamburger, M. E., & Lumpkin, C. D. (2014). Bullying surveillance among youths: Uniform definitions for public health and recommended data elements, version 1.0. Atlanta, GA: National Center for Injury Prevention and Control, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and U.S. Department of Education.Google Scholar
- Hollingshead, A. A. (1975). Four-factor index of social status. New Haven, CT: Yale University. Unpublished manuscript.Google Scholar
- Liew, J., Eisenberg, N., & Reiser, M. (2004). Preschoolers’ effortful control and negative emotionality, immediate reactions to disappointment, and quality of social functioning. Journal of Experimental Child Psychology, 89, 298–319. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jecp.2004.06.004.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
- Mikami, A. Y., & Hinshaw, S. P. (2006). Resilient adolescent adjustment among girls: Buffers of childhood peer rejection and attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder. Journal of Abnormal Child Psychology, 34, 825–839. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10802-006-9062-7.CrossRefPubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
- Murray-Close, D., Nelson, D. A., Ostrov, J. M., Casas, J. F., & Crick, N. R. (2016). Relational aggression: A developmental psychopathology perspective. In D. Cicchetti (Ed.), Developmental Psychopathology (3rd ed.). (pp. 660–722). Hoboken, NJ: Wiley.Google Scholar
- Olweus, D. (1993). Bullying at school: What we know and what can we do. Malden, MA: Blackwell Publishing.Google Scholar
- Ostrov, J. M., Blakely-McClure, S. J., Perry, K. J., & Kamper-DeMarco, K. E. (2018). Definitions: The form and function of relational aggression. In Coyne, S., & Ostrov, J. M. (Eds.), Development of relational aggression (pp. 13–28). New York, NY: Oxford University Press. (in Press).Google Scholar
- Ostrov, J. M., Blakely-McClure, S. J., & Kamper-DeMarco, K. E. (2017). Developmental roots of bullying. In C. Bradshaw (Ed.), Handbook of bullying prevention: A lifecourse perspective (pp. 21–31). Washington, DC: National Association of Social Workers (NASW) Press.Google Scholar
- Ostrov, J. M., & Crick, N. R. (2007). Forms and functions of aggression in early childhood: A short-term longitudinal study. School Psychology Review, 36, 22–43.Google Scholar
- Ostrov, J. M., Kamper, K. E., Hart, E. J., Godleski, S. A., & Blakely-McClure, S. J. (2014). A gender-balanced approach to the study of peer victimization and aggression subtypes in early childhood. Development and Psychopathology, 26, 575–587. https://doi.org/10.1017/S0954579414000248.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
- Park, J.-H., Essex, M. J., Zahn-Waxler, C., Armstrong, J. M., Klein, M. H., & Goldsmith, H. H. (2005). Relational and overt aggression in middle childhood: Early child and family risk factors. Early Education and Development, 16, 233–256. https://doi.org/10.1080/10409289.2005.10472869.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
- Prinstein, M. J., & Cillessen, A. H. N. (2003). Forms and functions of adolescent peer aggression associated with high levels of peer status. Merrill–Palmer Quarterly, 49, 310–342.Google Scholar
- Tseng, W.-L., Kawabata, Y., Gau, S. S.-F., & Crick, N. R. (2014). Symptoms of attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder and peer functioning: A transactional model of development. Journal of Abnormal Child Psychology, 42, 1353–1365. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10802-014-9883-8.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
- Ybarra, M. L., Espelage, D. L., & Mitchell, K. J. (2014). Differentiating youth who are bullied from other victims of peer-aggression: The importance of differential power and repetition. Journal of Adolescent Health Care, 55, 293–300. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jadohealth.2014.02.009.CrossRefGoogle Scholar