Relational Aggression

Relational aggression, also known as covert aggression or covert bullying, is a type of aggression in which harm is caused through damage to one’s relationships or social status . Although it can be used in many contexts and among different age groups, relational aggression among adolescents, in particular, has received a lot of attention with the help of popular media including movies like ‘’Mean girls’’ and books like ‘’Odd Girl Out’’ by R. Simmons (2003) and ‘’Queen Bees and Wannabes’’ by R. Wiseman (2003). It is also proved to have various life-long consequences. This type of aggression has been primarily observed and studied among girls. However, research shows that it is quite commonly used by boys as well.

In adolescent years, one’s peers receive increasingly more significance in various aspects of life. Peer relationships are especially important for adolescent’s healthy psychological development: peer provide many new behavioral models and important feedback essential for a successful identity formation and development of one’s sense of self. Interactions with peers incourage positive practice of autonomy and independent decision-making skills, as well as are essential for healthy sexual development including the development of the capacity for intimate friendships and appropriate sexual behavior. Peers relationships are also very important in determining how much adolescents value school, how much effort they put into it, and how well they perform in class. However, quite frequently adolescents develop peer relationships that are harmful for their psychological development. Adolescents tend to form various cliques or belong to different crowds based on their interests, music and clothing preferences, as well as their cultural or ethnical background. Such groups differ in their social or popularity statuses. This often creates unhealthy, aggression-victimization based social dynamics between groups. Different forms of aggression can also be used to control dynamics within group. Sometimes aggression is directed to an individual rather to any apparent social group. However, individual victimization can still be linked to one's belonging to some socially stigmatized social group, which can be defined by some unifying factor such as being overweight, having a disability, or being of specific ethnicity, etc.

Relational aggression is defined as a type of aggression that is “intended to harm other adolescents through deliberate manipulation of their social standing and relationships” . Relational aggression, according to Dan Olweus is a type of bullying. Bullying in general, is defined as physically or psychologically violent re-occurring and not provoked acts, where the bully and victim have unequal physical strength or/and psychological power . These key elements or conditions apply to all three types of bullying: verbal, physical, relational.