Relational aggression  

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Relational aggression, also known as covert aggression or covert bullying is a type of aggression in which harm is caused through damage to relationships or social status within a group rather than physical violence. Relational aggression is more common and more studied among girls than boys.


Forms of relational abuse

  • Betrayal - Where the abuser breaks agreements with the victim.
  • Exclusion - Where the abuser prevents the victim from socializing with the abuser's friends.
  • Gossip - Where the abuser tells others personal information about the victim.
  • Humiliation - Where the abuser humiliates or shames the victim in front of others.
  • Lies - Where the abuser lies about the victim to others.
  • Solitude - Where the abuser prevents the victim from socializing with the victim's friends.

Origin of the term

The term relational aggression was first coined in a 1995 study by Crick and Grotpeter. Despite the novelty of the term, it has gained usage in books, popular articles, academic papers, web sites and even in the title of research conferences.

Abusive relationships

An abusive relationship is an interpersonal relationship characterized by the use or threat of physical abuse or psychological abuse (see battered woman syndrome). Abusive relationships are often characterized by jealousy, emotional withholding, lack of intimacy, infidelity, rape, verbal abuse, broken promises, violence, control games, and power plays[1], and are often progressively escalating.

Warning signs of relational aggression

Some of the warning signs[2] that may indicate abuse include:

  • Physical harm of any kind
  • Attempts to control aspects of an individual's life (e.g., how one dresses, who one's friends are, what one does in one's free time, what one says, etc.)
  • Humiliation
  • Coercing and/or threats of physical harm to an individual or those close to him/her.
  • Demands to know where an individual is at all times
  • An individual "rages" when they are hurt, shamed, or are in jeopardy of losing control in the relationship.
  • Online manipulation i.e. abuser is poised to hurt victim using knowledge of technology

See also

Further reading


  • Kupkovits, Jamie Relational Aggression in Girls (2008)
  • Randall, Kaye & Bowen, Allyson A. Mean Girls: 101 1/2 Creative Strategies for Working With Relational Aggression (2007)
  • Wosnik, Debra The I Hate Wendy Club: Story, Lessons, & Activities on Relational Aggression, Grades 2-5 (2007)

Academic articles

  • Carpenter, Erika M. & Nangle, Douglas W. Caught between stages: relational aggression emerging as a developmental advance in at-risk preschoolers. Journal of Research in Childhood Education (2007)
  • Casas, J.F., Weigel, S.M., Crick, N.R., Ostrov, J.M., Woods, K.E., Jansen Yeh, E.A., Huddleston-Casas, C.A. (2006). Early parenting and children’s relational and physical aggression in the preschool and home contexts. Journal of Applied Developmental Psychology, 27, 209-2227.
  • Crick, N.R. & Grotpeter, J.K (1995). Relational aggression, gender, and social psychological adjustment. Child Development, 66, 710-722.
  • Crick, N. R., Ostrov, J. F., & Kawabata, Y. (in press). Relational aggression and gender: An overview. Invited chapter to appear in D. J. Flannery, A. Vazsonyi & I. Waldman (Eds.), The Cambridge Handbook of Violent Behavior and Aggression.
  • Crick, N. R., Ostrov, J. M., & Werner, N. E. (2006). A longitudinal study of relational aggression, physical aggression and children’s social-psychological adjustment. Journal of Abnormal Child Psychology, 34, 131-142.
  • Ostrov, J.M. Crick, N.R. Stauffacher, K. Relational aggression in sibling and peer relationships during early childhood. Journal of Applied Developmental Psychology
  • Stauffacher, K. & DeHart, G.B. Crossing social contexts: Relational aggression between siblings and friends during early and middle childhood. Journal of Applied Developmental Psychology

Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "Relational aggression" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

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