Encyclopedia of Child Behavior and Development

2011 Edition
| Editors: Sam Goldstein, Jack A. Naglieri

Relational Aggression

Reference work entry
DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/978-0-387-79061-9_2398



Relational aggression is the use of exclusionary and/or other nonphysical behaviors to undermine another person’s self-esteem or group status.


Relational aggression involves the intent to harm another person through nonphysical injury to or manipulation of relationships. Relationally aggressive behaviors can be covert (i.e., spreading rumors, gossiping, ignoring, excluding) or overt (e.g., directly telling a peer, “If you don’t do what I say, I won’t be your friend”). Similarly, relational aggression can be reactive in that it occurs in response to feeling angry or threatened, or it can serve an instrumental purpose in getting what one wants.

Both males and females engage in relational aggression. While it is a commonly held belief that females exhibit higher levels of relational aggression than males, research addressing gender differences in prevalence rates has yielded...

This is a preview of subscription content, log in to check access.


  1. 1.
    Crick, N. R., & Grotpeter, J. K. (1996). Children’s treatment by peers: Victims of relational and overt aggression. Development and Psychopathology, 8, 367–380.Google Scholar
  2. 2.
    Merrell, K. W., Buchanan, R., & Tran, O. K. (2006). Relational aggression in children and adolescents: A review with implications for school settings. Psychology in Schools, 43(3), 345–360.Google Scholar
  3. 3.
    OSEP Technical Assistance Center for Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports. What is school-wide PBS? Retrieved, September 22, 2008, from http://www.pbis.org/schoolwide.htm
  4. 4.
    Young, E. L., Boye, A. E., & Nelson, D. A. (2006). Relational aggression: Understanding, identifying, and responding in schools. Psychology in Schools, 43(3), 297–312.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.PsychologySiena CollegeLoudonvilleUSA