Gender differences in trajectories of relational aggression perpetration and victimization from middle to high school

Pamela Orpinas, Caroline McNicholas, Lusine Nahapetyan
Aggressive Behavior 2015, 41 (5): 401-12
Relational aggression refers to harming others through damaging or manipulating peer relationships. In a cohort of students surveyed annually from middle to high school, this study identified groups of adolescents who followed distinct trajectories of perpetration and of victimization of relational aggression, compared the proportion of boys and girls in each trajectory, and examined the overlap between perpetration and victimization trajectories. The sample consisted of 620 randomly selected sixth graders. Students completed yearly surveys from Grade 6-12. We used group-based trajectory modeling to identify the trajectories. Adolescents followed three developmental trajectories of perpetration and three similar trajectories of victimization: Low (lowest aggression), Moderate, and High Declining (high in middle school, with a steep decline in high school). All trajectories declined from Grade 6-12. The largest groups were the Low perpetration (55%) and Low victimization (48%). Relational aggression trajectories differed by gender: more boys reported perpetration, and more girls reported victimization. For perpetration, slightly more boys than girls were classified in the two trajectories of higher aggression. For victimization, significantly fewer girls than boys were classified in the Low trajectory, and significantly more girls than boys were classified in the Moderate trajectory. There was substantial overlap of the perpetration and victimization trajectories. These findings highlight the importance of implementing programs to reduce relational aggression for boys and for girls.

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