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Identifying Relationally Aggressive Students: How Aligned are Teachers and Peers?


Relational aggression is characterized by attempts to damage another’s relationships or social status and is a major concern affecting academic, socioemotional, behavioral, and health outcomes, particularly for urban, minority youth. Teachers and peers frequently disagree about which students are relationally aggressive. Factors associated with peer and teacher discordant and concordant identification of relationally aggressive students were explored including prosocial behavior, perceived popularity, academic competence, and gender. Participants included 178 3rd–5th grade students across 11 urban classrooms. Findings revealed that students were more likely to be rated as relationally aggressive by their peers but not their teacher as scores on peer nominations for prosocial behavior decreased, while teacher-rated academic motivation/participation increased. Female students were more likely to be concordantly identified by peers and teachers as relationally aggressive when ratings for overt aggression increased. These results highlight the utility of obtaining ratings from multiple informants as well as the difficulty in accurately identifying all students who may benefit from interventions targeting relational aggression. Findings also suggest factors that may be related to the potential shortcomings of current measures and provide avenues for additional research to improve detection of relationally aggressive students.

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The authors wish to acknowledge the following individuals who contributed to this research study: Brooke Paskewich, Branlyn DeRosa, Wanda Moore, Katherine Streit, Danielle Centeno, Krista Mehari, Leah Brogan, Courtney Calloway, Shani Gardner, and Amanda Parks.


The research for this study was supported by a grant from the Institute of Educational Sciences in the Department of Education (R305AI30175). The writing of the manuscript was supported by the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD; 1R01HD094833-01A1). This research was made possible, in part, by the support of the School District of Philadelphia. Opinions contained in this report reflect those of the authors and do not necessarily represent those of the School District of Philadelphia or the funding agency.

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Correspondence to Chandler E. Puhy.

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The authors have no relevant financial or non-financial interests to disclose.

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This study was approved by the appropriate institutional review board of Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia. We certify that the study was performed in accordance with the ethical standards as laid down in the 1964 Declaration of Helsinki and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards.

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Parents of children included in the present study provided informed consent for their child to participate in the study.

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Puhy, C.E., Daly, B.P., Leff, S.S. et al. Identifying Relationally Aggressive Students: How Aligned are Teachers and Peers?. School Mental Health (2022).

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  • Relational aggression
  • Multiple-informant
  • Prosocial behavior
  • Academic competence
  • Gender
  • And perceived popularity