Journal of Abnormal Child Psychology

, Volume 33, Issue 3, pp 325–338 | Cite as

Proximal Peer-Level Effects of a Small-Group Selected Prevention on Aggression in Elementary School Children: An Investigation of the Peer Contagion Hypothesis

  • Paul Boxer
  • Nancy G. Guerra
  • L. Rowell Huesmann
  • Julie Morales


Examined peer contagion in small group, selected prevention programming over one school year. Participants were boys and girls in grades 3 (46 groups, 285 students) and 6 (36 groups, 219 students) attending school in low-resource, inner city communities or moderate resource urban communities. Three-level hierarchical linear modeling (observations within individuals within groups) indicated that individual change in aggression over time related to the average aggression of others in the intervention group. The individual child was “pulled” toward peers’ mean level of aggression; so the intervention appeared to reduce aggression for those high on aggression, and to make those low on aggression more aggressive. Effects appeared to be magnified in either direction when the child was more discrepant from his or her peers. From these results we derive a principle of “discrepancy-proportional peer-influence” for small group intervention, and discuss the implications of this for aggregating aggressive children in small group programs.


aggression elementary school peer contagion selected prevention intervention 


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Copyright information

© Springer Science + Business Media, Inc. 2005

Authors and Affiliations

  • Paul Boxer
    • 1
    • 5
    • 6
  • Nancy G. Guerra
    • 2
  • L. Rowell Huesmann
    • 3
  • Julie Morales
    • 4
    • 7
  1. 1.University of MichiganUSA
  2. 2.University of CaliforniaRiverside
  3. 3.University of MichiganUSA
  4. 4.University of CaliforniaRiverside
  5. 5.Department of PsychologyUniversity of New OrleansNew Orleans
  6. 6.University of New OrleansUSA
  7. 7.Division of Children, Youth, and Families of Jefferson County Human Services (Colorado)USA

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