Repository logo

Exploring the mechanisms of sex and grade differences in relational/indirect/social aggression



Journal Title

Journal ISSN

Volume Title




Degree Level



The purpose of the project was to explore sex and grade differences observed in RISA (a term used to refer collectively to relational, indirect, and social aggression). Three theories used to explain sex and grade differences, namely, gender socialization theory (Bjorkqvist, 1994;Lagerspetz & Bjorkqvist, 1994; Lagerspetz, Bjorkqvist, & Peltonen, 1988), target-value theory(Bjorkqvist, Lagerspetz, & Kaukiainen, 1992; Lagerspetz et al, 1988; Crick & Grotpeter, 1995),and symbolic capital theory (Campbell, 1993; Cashdan, 1997; Eckert, 1990; Horney 1934a, 1934b, 1934c) were reviewed, expanded upon, and tested. Theories were tested using questionnaires; however, a small subset of participants also completed individual interviews to add greater depth to information provided by the quantitative data. A second purpose of the project was to use a measure that represents the diversity of RISA items found in other measures currently used by researchers since research has suggested inconsistencies in findings may be related to item composition. Participants were 521 (301 girls and 220 boys) in grades six (n = 224), seven (n = 224) and eight (n = 73) from various Canadian schools (average age of 12.2 years) who completed the questionnaires. From this sample, 28 students completed individual interviews. Results indicated that boys and girls did not differ in regard to self-reported use of RISA; however, interviews and peer nominations indicated that girls have the reputation for engaging in RISA more frequently than boys. Post-hoc analyses indicated that the appearance of sex differences in RISA may be influenced by item choice as some items on the self-report measure were more highly reported by boys, while others were more likely to be reported by girls. There was not a great deal of support for any of the theories tested. Results indicated that the pattern of connections for predictors of RISA frequently did not differ by sex. Factors like perceived risk of or discomfort with using aggression, affective reactions to relationship threats, and care about one’s own or a peer’s performance in a number of life domains were connected to RISA for both sexes.



Sex differences, Age differences, Adolescents, Social Aggression, Indirect Aggression, Relational Aggression



Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)






Part Of