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From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Relational aggression, also known as covert aggression[1] or covert bullying[2] is a type of aggression in which harm is caused through damage to relationships or social status within a group rather than physical violence.[2][3] Relational aggression is more common and more studied among girls than boys.[3]


Forms of Relational Abuse

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

Origin of the term

The term relational aggression was first coined in a 1995 study by Crick and Grotpeter. [4] 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. [5]

Abusive relationships

An abusive relationship is an interpersonal relationship characterized by the use or threat of physical or psychological abuse (see battered woman syndrome). Abusive relationships are often characterized by jealousy, emotional withholding, lack of intimacy, infidelity, sexual coercion, verbal abuse, broken promises, physical violence, control games and power plays.[3]. Abusive relationships are often progressively escalating. That is, the abuse may get worse over time.

Warning signs of relational aggression

These are some of the warning signs that may indicate abuse:

  • 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 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
  • Abuse of drugs or alcohol
  • Growing up witnessing an abusive relationship, and/or was abused as a child
  • An individual "rages" when they are hurt, shamed, or are in jeopardy of losing control in the relationship.
  • Online manipulation ie. abuser is poised to hurt victim using knowledge of technology

See also


  1. ^ Simon, George K. In Sheep's Clothing: Understanding and Dealing with Manipulative People 1996
  2. ^ a b McGrath, Mary Zabolio (2006). School Bullying: Tools for Avoiding Harm and Liability. Thousand Oaks, Calif: Corwin Press. pp. 21. ISBN 1-4129-1571-6. Retrieved 2008-09-04.  
  3. ^ a b Marion K. Underwood (2003). Social Aggression among Girls (Guilford Series On Social And Emotional Development). New York: The Guilford Press. ISBN 1-57230-865-6. Retrieved 2008-09-04.  
  4. ^ The Ophelia Project RA Information Site, [1].
  5. ^ e.g., the "2nd Research Conference on Relational Aggression" was held at University of Buffalo, SUNY, in 2006, as per [2], web site accessed 20 February 2007.

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

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