Relational aggression and bullying in a school context

Dorothy L. Espelage, Jun Sung Hong, Gabriel J. Merrin

Research output: Chapter in Book/Entry/PoemChapter

4 Scopus citations


Relational aggression, or “indirect bullying" or “social aggression,” includes behaviors that are directed at damaging relationships or feelings of acceptance, friendship, or group inclusion. Relational aggression is distinct from physical bullying, and research evidence suggests that relational aggression perpetration and victimization may lead to behavioral problems and negative psychosocial functioning. Drawing from social cognitive theory and social-ecological perspectives, this chapter reviews the literature on correlates and predictors of relational aggression among children and adolescents. Supporting the social cognitive theory, existing literature demonstrates that impulsivity and anger are positively related to increases in relational aggression among adolescents, and empathy is negatively linked to relational aggression. Relational aggression appears to play out because of interactions between individual characteristics, family dynamics, peer relations, and school climates that foster aggression. It is imperative that anti-bullying policies and intervention programs focus on relational aggression and should include components that foster healthy relationships among youth.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationThe Development of Relational Aggression
PublisherOxford University Press
Number of pages13
ISBN (Electronic)9780190491826
StatePublished - Jan 1 2018
Externally publishedYes


  • Relational aggression
  • Social networks
  • Social-cognitive theory
  • Social-ecology

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Psychology


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