Sex Roles

, Volume 55, Issue 7–8, pp 493–502 | Cite as

Powerlessness and the Use of Indirect Aggression in Friendships

Original Article


Aggression in girls, especially indirect aggression perpetrated by girls toward other girls, has received increasing attention in the popular press. Various explanations have been offered to explain why girls might use indirect methods more so than boys, including both biological and social explanations. We tested a social contextual explanation; that is, that powerlessness is associated with the use of indirect aggression strategies. Power was conceptualized as both an individual difference variable and as an interpersonal variable. In two studies, we found that for both men and women, lack of power in same gender friendships (defined as anxiety about one’s status in friendships) was associated with greater use of indirect aggression strategies. Further, individual differences in deferent personality characteristics and lack of relational control in a friendship were unrelated to the use of indirect aggression.


Indirect aggression Gender differences Power Friendships 



We thank Sarbani Hazra and Nevena Zhelyazkova for their help with data processing and Bill Peterson and Eileen Zurbriggen for helpful comments on earlier versions of this article.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2006

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of PsychologySmith CollegeNorthamptonUSA
  2. 2.Emory UniversityAtlantaUSA

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