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Exploring differences between student and teacher reports of relational aggression

Hadley Moore, University of Massachusetts Amherst


Research supports that aggression is one of the best known predictors of future social, psychological, behavioral, and academic problems. Longitudinal studies have demonstrated that aggression through bullying is detrimental for both the aggressor and the victim and is correlated with many negative outcomes including depression and poor school achievement. Recently, scholars have recognized that there are a wide range of bullying behaviors, including physically, overtly, and relationally aggressive behaviors. Relational aggression refers to behaviors that harm others through damage (or threat to damage) to relationships or feelings of acceptance or group inclusion. Most studies of relational aggression have not addressed the social contexts within which children develop, including the context of school. The present study explored the relationship between student reports of the frequency of school-based relational and overt aggression, teacher reports of the frequency of school based relational and overt aggression, and office discipline referral data (used as a measure of school climate). Fifty-eight third, fourth, fifth, and sixth grade students (boys and girls) and nine teachers from a public elementary in Massachusetts school participated in this study. Students completed an anonymous survey about relational and overt victimization and relational and overt witnessing. The teachers of the students also completed an anonymous survey about the frequency with which they witnessed and intervened with relational and overt aggression. Office discipline referral data were collected for one month. Data indicated that students and teachers reported witnessing similar levels of relational aggression. However, teachers reported witnessing more overt aggression than students. In addition, students reported witnessing significantly more relational aggression than overt aggression. Of note, although students reported witnessing significantly more relational aggression, they reported experiencing significantly more overt aggression. Office discipline referrals revealed that students were more often sent to the office for overtly aggressive behaviors than for relationally aggressive behaviors. Survey findings are discussed in light of the school climate data provided by the office discipline referrals. Future research should further investigate the complicated connections between student report, teacher report, and school climate as they relate to bullying and relational aggression, in particular.

Subject Area

Educational sociology|Social psychology

Recommended Citation

Moore, Hadley, "Exploring differences between student and teacher reports of relational aggression" (2012). Doctoral Dissertations Available from Proquest. AAI3498361.