Journal of Abnormal Child Psychology

, Volume 46, Issue 4, pp 795–809 | Cite as

Functions of Aggression and Peer Victimization in Elementary School Children: the Mediating Role of Social Preference

  • Sam Manring
  • L. Christian Elledge
  • Lisette W. Swails
  • Eric M. Vernberg


This study examined whether social preference was a mechanism that explained the relation between proactive and reactive aggression and peer victimization. Participants were 494 children in grades 2–5. Proactive and reactive aggression was assessed via a self-report measure and indices of social preference and peer victimization were assessed via a peer nomination inventory. Data was collected during the fall and spring of two academic years. The relations among aggression, social preference, and peer victimization varied as a function of aggression and gender. For girls, reactive aggression was a significant negative predictor of social preference. Findings also revealed social preference mediated the relation between reactive aggression and peer victimization for girls. This pathway did not hold for boys. There was some evidence that proactive aggression was negatively associated with peer victimization, but only for girls. Findings from the current study suggest social preference may be a key mechanism through which reactive aggression is associated with future victimization for girls. Boys’ aggression was not related to subsequent peer victimization. Future research and intervention efforts should consider gender differences and the function of aggression when investigating children’s peer victimization experiences.


Proactive and reactive aggression Peer victimization Teacher-student relationships Peer relationships Peer acceptance 



This work was supported by the National Institute of Health (F32HD066833). We would also like to thank the Lawrence Public School District and its students, families, and faculty for their participation and support.

Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of Interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Ethical Approval

All procedures performed in studies involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institutional and/or national research committee and with the 1964 Helsinki declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards.

Informed Consent

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


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of PsychologyUniversity of TennesseeKnoxvilleUSA
  2. 2.Department of PsychologyUniversity of TennesseeKnoxvilleUSA
  3. 3.Center for Child Health and Human DevelopmentUniversity of KansasKansas CityUSA
  4. 4.Clinical Child Psychology ProgramUniversity of KansasLawrenceUSA

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