The impact of gender, family, and mental health issues on displays of relational aggression in a sample of court-involved youth

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The Ohio State University

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This study focuses on a form of problematic behavior known as relational aggression. Relational aggression is defined as the manipulation of an interpersonal relationship, through both direct and indirect non-physical means, in order to harm another person. Previous studies have examined potential gender differences regarding displays of this type of aggression in samples of children and adolescents, with results that have been inconclusive. The present study extends this literature by considering two additional factors, family issues and mental health concerns, in order to more comprehensively understand the prediction of relational aggression in males and females. The study examined a sample of 272 court-involved youth and their parents from two Ohio counties who were interviewed by juvenile justice professionals using the Global Risk Assessment Device (GRAD). Three domains of the GRAD were used in the present study: the mental health domain, the family/parenting domain, and 5 items from the peer relationships domain that covered relational aggression issues. T-test analyses generated initial evidence of gender differences in adolescent relational aggression levels, such that females were reported to display higher levels of relational aggression than males. In addition, mental health issues were significantly and positively related to relational aggression displays in both the male and the female samples as reported by both adolescents and parents. Further, family/parenting concerns were significantly related to mental health issues that, in turn, were related to relational aggression displays in both males and females. Hence, among other things, the findings of the present study suggest that youth with relational aggression tendencies are better identified not by their gender but rather through a more comprehensive understanding of the issues that they are facing in risk domains associated with mental health and the family.



adolescence, aggressiveness with peers, interpersonal relations, conflict between adolescents, relationship manipulation