Social Aggression

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Social aggression refers to intentionally harming someone using nonphysical means. It is a nearly synonymous term to relational aggression. The following are the most common forms of social aggression used during the tween years.

Relationship Manipulation

One form of social aggression is relationship manipulation. Relationship manipulation tends to be subtle, with the tween doing things behind a friend's back that threaten the integrity of the friendship. For instance, a tween might tell a friend's secrets in order to gain new friends and to undercut the existing friendship. Meanwhile, she acts like everything is fine with the existing friend and may even attempt to elicit more secrets so that she can pass them along.

Social Exclusion

Social exclusion can be verbal or nonverbal. Methods of nonverbal social exclusion include ignoring someone or deliberately leaving someone out of plans. Verbal social exclusion typically involves attempts to actively turn others against someone. A tween may even become friends with someone—usually an enemy—as an act of revenge and further exclusion against the former friend.

Reputation Attacking

Reputation attacking tends to be a particularly overt form of social aggression. Perhaps not coincidentally, it is the one type of relational aggression that boys tend to engage in more than girls. It can be done subtly, however, such as by spreading rumors and concealing their source. This may especially occur online since it's easier to remain anonymous in cyberspace than in person.

Using Demeaning Gestures

Social aggression also can take the form of demeaning facial and bodily gestures. For instance, a tween might imitate the person behind her back, roll her eyes, or give dirty looks to the person. Whether these gestures are noticed by the victim or simply seen by others, they have the effect of intentionally harming the individual.

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Article Sources

  • Archer, John, and Coyne, Sarah. An Integrative Review of Indirect, Social, and Relational Aggression. 2005. Personality and Social Psychology Review. 9, 3: 212-230.

  • Benenson, Joyce F., Markovits, Henry, Thompson, Melissa Emery, and Wrangham, Richard W. Under Threat of Social Exclusion, Females Exclude More Than Males. 2011. Psychological Science.