Relationship Between Forms of Aggression and Social Status in South Korean Primary School Peer Groups

  • Jonghyo Park
  • Jingu KimEmail author
Original Paper



This research aimed to explore the relationship between aggression and social status. More specifically, we differentiated between relational aggression and overt aggression, and between perceived popularity and social preference. We also considered classroom structure (i.e., density, hierarchy) a moderator in the relationship between aggression and social status.


A total of 1,404 students (719 boys, 685 girls; 3rd to 6th graders) from 71 classrooms in primary schools of South Korea participated and responded via online surveys that included peer nomination of aggression and social status subtypes.


Multi-level analyses revealed that the negative association between relational aggression and later perceived popularity was stronger in classrooms with low density compared to ones with high density. Overt aggression enhanced social preference in hierarchical classrooms whereas it has negative association with later social preference in egalitarian classrooms.


The results suggest that classroom structures play a significant role in reinforcing social status via specific forms of aggression. Classroom context plays a key role in this connection, as students choose their specific forms of aggression in accordance with their goals. Limitations of the study and directions for future research were suggested.


Social network analysis Density Hierarchy Aggression Social status 



This paper was supported by Konkuk University in 2015.

Author Contributions

J.H. designed and executed the study and the writing and editing of the manuscript. J.K. collected the data and did the data analyses and editing of the manuscript.


Konkuk University, Republic of Korea.

Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of Interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Ethical Approval

All procedures performed involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of the Konkuk University and/or national research committee and with APA ethical standards.

Informed Consent

Informed consent was obtained from all individual participants included in the study.


  1. Ahn, H. J., & Rodkin, P. C. (2014). Classroom-level predictors of the social status of aggression: Friendship centralization, friendship density, teacher–student attunement, and gender. Journal of Educational Psychology, 106(4), 1144–1155. Scholar
  2. Ahn, H. J., Garandeau, C. F., & Rodkin, P. C. (2010). Effects of classroom embeddedness and density on the social status of aggressive and victimized children. Journal of Early Adolescence, 30(1), 76–101. Scholar
  3. Andreou, E. (2006). Social preference, perceived popularity and social intelligence: relations to overt and relational aggression. School Psychology International, 27(3), 339–351. Scholar
  4. Cappella, E., & Hwang, S. H. (2015). Peer contexts in schools: avenues toward behavioral health in early adolescence. Behavioral Medicine, 41(3), 80–89. Scholar
  5. Card, N. A., Stucky, B. D., Sawalani, G. M., & Little, T. D. (2008). Direct and indirect aggression during childhood and adolescence: a meta‐analytic review of gender differences, intercorrelations, and relations to maladjustment. Child Development, 79(5), 1185–1229. Scholar
  6. Casper, D. M., & Card, N. A. (2017). Overt and relational victimization: a meta-analytic review of their overlap and associations with social-psychological adjustment. Child Development, 88(2), 466–483. Scholar
  7. Cillessen, A. H. N. (2007). New perspectives on social networks in the study of peer relations. New Directions for Child and Adolescent Development, 118, 91–100. Scholar
  8. Cillessen, A. H. N., & Mayeux, L. (2004). From censure to reinforcement: developmental changes in the association between aggression and social status. Child Development, 75(1), 147–163. Scholar
  9. Cillessen, A. H. N., Mayeux, L., Ha, T., de Bruyn, E. H., & LaFontana, K. M. (2014). Aggressive effects of prioritizing popularity in early adolescence. Aggressive Behavior, 40(3), 204–213.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Crick, N. R., & Dodge, K. A. (1994). A review and reformulation of social information-processing mechanisms in children’s social adjustment. Psychological Bulletin, 115(1), 74–101. Scholar
  11. Crick, N. R., & Grotpeter, J. K. (1995). Relational aggression, gender, and social-psychological adjustment. Child Development, 66(3), 710–722. Scholar
  12. Dijkstra, J. K., & Gest, S. D. (2015). Peer norm salience for academic achievement, prosocial behavior, and bullying: Implications for adolescent school experiences. Journal of Early Adolescence, 35(1), 79–96. Scholar
  13. Farmer, T. W., Lines, M. M., & Hamm, J. V. (2011). Revealing the invisible hand: the role of teachers in children’s peer experiences. Journal of Applied Developmental Psychology, 32(5), 247–256. Scholar
  14. Garandeau, C. F., Ahn, H. J., & Rodkin, P. C. (2011). The social status of aggressive students across contexts: the role of classroom status hierarchy, academic achievement, and grade. Developmental Psychology, 47(6), 1699–1710. Scholar
  15. Gest, S. D., & Rodkin, P. C. (2011). Teaching practices and elementary classroom peer ecologies. Journal of Applied Developmental Psychology, 32(5), 288–296. Scholar
  16. Gest, S. D., Osgood, D. W., Feinberg, M. E., Bierman, K. L., & Moody, J. (2011). Strengthening prevention program theories and evaluations: contributions from social network analysis. Prevention Science, 12(4), 349–360. Scholar
  17. Hawley, P. H. (2011). The evolution of adolescence and the adolescence of evolution: the coming of age of humans and the theory about the forces that made them. Journal of Research on Adolescence, 21(1), 307–316. Scholar
  18. Hawley, P. H., Little, T. D., & Rodkin, P. (2007). Aggression and adaptation: the bright side to bad behavior. Hillsdale: Lawrence Erlbaum and Associates.Google Scholar
  19. Henington, C., Hughes, J. N., Cavell, T. A., & Thompson, B. (1998). The role of relational aggression in identifying aggressive boys and girls. Journal of School Psychology, 36(4), 457–477.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Henry, D., Guerra, N., Huesmann, R., Tolan, P., VanAcker, R., & Eron, L. (2000). Normative influences on aggression in urban elementary school classrooms. American Journal of Community Psychology, 28(1), 59–81. Scholar
  21. Jackson, D. R., Cappella, E., & Neal, J. W. (2015). Aggression norms in the classroom social network: Contexts of aggressive behavior and social preference in middle childhood. American Journal of Community Psychology, 56, 293–306. Scholar
  22. LaFontana, K. A., & Cillessen, A. H. N. (2002). Children’s perceptions of popular and unpopular peers: a multimethod assessment. Developmental Psychology, 38(5), 635–647. Scholar
  23. Lansford, J. E., Malone, P. S., Dodge, K. A., Pettit, G. S., & Bates, J. E. (2010). Developmental cascades of peer rejection, social information processing biases, and aggression during middle childhood. Development and Psychopathology, 22(3), 593–602. Scholar
  24. Little, T. D., Brauner, J., Jones, S. M., Nock, M. K., & Hawley, P. H. (2003). Rethinking aggression: a typological examination of the functions of aggression. Merrill-Palmer Quarterly, 49(3), 343–369. Scholar
  25. McFarland, D. A., Moody, J., Diehl, D., Smith, J. A., & Thomas, R. J. (2014). Network ecology and adolescent social structure. American Sociological Review, 79(6), 1088–1121. Scholar
  26. Muthén, L. K., & Muthén, B. O. (1998). Mplus user’s guide. Seventh edition Los Angeles: Muthén & Muthén. 2012.Google Scholar
  27. Neal, J. W., & Neal, Z. P. (2013). Nested or networked? Future directions for ecological systems theory. Social Development, 22(4), 722–737. Scholar
  28. Park, J. (2013). Exploration of student and school factors influencing on bullying victimization. Asian Journal of Education, 14(1), 69–95. Scholar
  29. Parkhurst, J. T., & Hopmeyer, A. (1998). Sociometric popularity and peer-perceived popularity: two distinct dimensions of peer status. Journal of Early Adolescence, 18, 125–144. Scholar
  30. 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. Scholar
  31. Rodkin, P. C., & Ryan, A. M. (2012). Child and adolescent peer relations in educational context. In K. R. Harris, S. Graham, T. Urdan, S. Graham, J. M. Royer, M. Zeidner, (eds.) APA educational psychology handbook: Individual differences and cultural and contextual factors. Vol. 210.1037/13274-015. Washington: DC: American Psychological Association.Google Scholar
  32. Rodkin, P. C. (2004). Peer ecologies of aggression and bullying. In D. L. Espelage, E. W. Gutgsell & S. M. Swearer (Eds.), Bullying in American schools: a social-ecological perspective on prevention and intervention (pp. 87–106). New York: Guilford Press.Google Scholar
  33. Rodkin, P. C., Ryan, A. M., Jamison, R., & Wilson, T. (2013). Social goals, social behavior, and social status in middle childhood. Developmental Psychology, 49(6), 1139–1150. Scholar
  34. Rose, A. J., & Rudolph, K. D. (2006). A review of sex differences in peer relationship processes: potential trade-offs for the emotional and behavioral development of boys and girls. Psychological Bulletin, 132, 98–131. Scholar
  35. Rose, A. J., Swenson, L. P., & Carlson, W. (2004). Friendships of aggressive youth: considering the influences of being disliked and of being perceived as popular. Journal of Experimental Child Psychology, 88(1), 25–45.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Rubin, K. H., Bukowski, W., & Bowker, J. (2015). Children in peer groups. In M. Bornstein & T. Leventhal (Volume Eds.) and R. M. Lerner (Series Ed.), Handbook of child psychology and developmental science. Vol. 4: Ecological settings and processes, 7th Edn., (pp.175–222). New York: Wiley.Google Scholar
  37. Ryan, A. M. (2000). Peer groups as a context for the socialization of adolescents’ motivation, engagement, and achievement in school. Educational Psychologist, 35(2), 101–111. Scholar
  38. Schafer, M., Korn, S., Brodbeck, F. C., Wolke, D., & Schulz, H. (2005). Bullying roles in changing contexts: the stability of victim and bully roles from primary to secondary school. International Journal of Behavioral Development, 29(4), 323–335. Scholar
  39. Sijtsema, J. J., Veenstra, R., Lindenberg, S., & Salmivalli, C. (2009). Empirical test of bullies’ status goals: assessing direct goals, aggression and prestige. Aggressive Behavior, 35, 57–67. Scholar
  40. Thomas, D. E., Bierman, K. L., & Powers, C. J. (2011). The influence of classroom aggression and classroom climate on aggressive-disruptive behavior. Child Development, 82, 751–757. Scholar
  41. Tomada, G., & Schneider, B. H. (1997). Relational aggression, gender, and peer acceptance: invariance across culture, stability over time, and concordance among informants. Developmental Psychology, 33(4), 601–609. Scholar
  42. Vermande, M. M., Gilholm, P. A., Reijntjes, A. H., Hessen, D. J., Sterck, E. H., & Overduin-de Vries, A. M. (2018). Is inspiring group members an effective predictor of social dominance in early adolescence? Direct and moderated effects of behavioral strategies, social skills, and gender on resource control and popularity. Journal of Youth and Adolescence, 47(9), 1813–1829. Scholar
  43. Volk, A. A., Camilleri, J. A., Dane, A. V., & Marini, Z. A. (2012). Is adolescent bullying an evolutionary adaptation? Aggressive Behavior, 38(3), 222–238. Scholar
  44. Wasserman, S., & Faust, K. (1994). Social network analysis: methods and applications. New York: Cambridge University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  45. Wellness, B. (1988). Structural analysis: from method and metaphor to theory and substance. In B. Wellness & S. D. Berkowitz (Eds.), Social structures: a network approach (pp. 19–61). New York: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  46. Wright, J. C., Giammarino, M., & Parad, H. W. (1986). Social status in small groups: individual–group similarity and the social “misfit”. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 50(3), 523–536. Scholar
  47. Xie, H., Swift, D. J., Cairns, B. D., & Cairns, R. C. (2002). Aggressive behaviors in social interaction and developmental adaptation: a narrative analysis of interpersonal conflicts during early adolescence. Social Development, 11(2), 205–224.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, part of Springer Nature 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Konkuk UniversitySeoulKorea

Personalised recommendations