Aggression in Child Peer Relations

Sloan Stuntz

Types of Aggression

There are three principle types of aggression expressed by children.
1. Physical aggression is the most frequently thought of and easiest to see. Physical aggression includes kicking, hitting, punching and so on.
2. Verbal aggression is when children use mean words to hurt one another.
3. Relational aggression is when children use the relationship as a weapon such as rejecting others, threatening to end the friendship, the silent treatment, or spreading nasty secrets.
What Is Aggressive Behavior? | Child Psychology

Influences on Aggression

Social Influence

Research found that the victims of either relational or physical aggression increased their aggressive behavior over time. Which supports social learning theory that children are learning from previous experiences. It is very apparent with verbal aggression that children are repeating hurtful things that they have hear others say. Relational aggression is correlated to conflict within the parent child relationship and siblings relational aggression within families is similar. It was also found that children who bully with relational aggression are often later bullied themselves as a result and become isolate from their peers.
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Media Influence on Physical Aggression

The media influence on physically aggressive children is well documented. Children, especially young children, are more likely to believe that TV is real and that reenact what they see on TV. This was shown in the Bobo Doll Experiment where children were shown a video of someone attacking a doll or being nice to a doll. It found children were likely to behave as they had seen in the video. It was also found that aggressive children tend to enjoy aggressive programs more than non-aggressive children.
Bobo Doll experiment (Bandura)

Media Influence on Relation Aggression

Relational aggression was unique in that children shown educational videos designed to improve relational aggression actually had increases in their relational aggression. Although the educational media improved physical aggression and some social behavior, it was found repeated in different studies to increase relational aggression. The conclusion being that children were unable to see the morals in the video and instead learned to replicated the negative behavior. Therefore parents may wish to avoid showing these videos to their children or to be careful of the television programs the children are watching.


When a child is found to have any kind of aggressive behavior it is much better to intervene early. Research found that comprehensive programs to increase pro-social behavior improved relational, verbal, and physical aggression. These programs revolved around intervening in child behavior whenever aggressive behavior was observed, and teaching all children how to better relate to one another. Emphasizing empathy was especially helpful, advising children to put themselves in others shoes. Making it clear when the child is behaving well and rewarding good behavior is very important. Parental intervention also showed improvements in the child's behavior. If parents were made aware of aggressive behaviors and how to combat them they were more able to improve the child's behavior from home.
Ostrov, J. (2013, August 1). The development of relational aggression: The role of media exposure. Retrieved November 10, 2015, from
Berk, L. (2014). Development through the lifespan (6th ed., p. 265 273). Boston, MA: Allyn and Bacon.