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Profiles and Correlates of Relational Aggression in Young Adults’ Romantic Relationships

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Abstract

The present study examines prevalence and correlates of experiencing and perpetrating relational aggression in the context of young adults’ romantic relationships. We assess correlates of relational aggression in four domains of risk: (1) Social-cognitive, (2) Relationship, (3) Trait/dispositional, and (4) Mental health. Results indicate that modest involvement in relational aggression is relatively common. Females reported higher levels of perpetration whereas males reported higher levels of victimization. Relational aggression and victimization were related to each domain of risk for both men and women, although different patterns of findings emerged for each domain. For example, individuals who reported perpetrating relational aggression in their romantic relationships believed that aggression was most acceptable (social-cognitive risk) whereas individuals who reported experiencing relational aggression (as victims) were more likely to indicate that their self worth is contingent on relationships and that romantic relationships are very important to them (dispositional risk). Respondents who reported either perpetrating or experiencing relational aggression had higher levels of exclusivity in their relationships and were more likely to describe their relationships in anxious attachment terms (relationship risk). They also reported higher levels of depressive and anxious symptoms (mental health risk). Implications of these results for theory and prevention and intervention efforts are discussed.

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Notes

  1. The present data were also analyzed using a series of regression equations where relational victimization and relational aggression were entered as continuous variables and their interaction was examined. Results were largely similar to the currently reported MANCOVA results and thus due to parsimony and heuristic value we present here only the MANCOVA results. However, additional details of the regression analyses are available by contacting the authors.

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Acknowledgments

The assistance of the following individuals is greatly appreciated: Pamela Belsom, Grant Carroll, Andria Cheramie, Ann Crapanzano, Mearidth Darbonne, Andrea DiBlasi, Lacey Faucheux, and Regina Krugler. We would also like to express gratitude to the young adults who participated in the study.

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Correspondence to Sara E. Goldstein.

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Goldstein, S.E., Chesir-Teran, D. & McFaul, A. Profiles and Correlates of Relational Aggression in Young Adults’ Romantic Relationships. J Youth Adolescence 37, 251–265 (2008). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10964-007-9255-6

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