Insights to Adolescent Psychology

students playing with play-dohJohn spreads a nasty rumor about a classmate. Emily invites all but one girl in the class to her party. Jennifer passes by the lunch table and says hello, but is ignored. Sara Goldstein, an associate professor of Family and Child Studies, says that knowing more about these and other instances of relational aggression can offer valuable insights into youth and adolescent psychology.

"Historically, research on aggression has emphasized physical forms of aggressive behavior," she explains. "Less is known about the ways in which social and psychological factors relate to other forms of aggressive behavior, such as relational aggression."

Working with Marie Tisak of the Psychology Department at Bowling Green State University, Goldstein explored young people's social reasoning in regard to relational aggression. "We examined whether youth view relational aggression as a behavior that is generally harmful and wrong, or if they viewed it more as a personal choice, since it involves the selection of friends and other social behaviors," she explains.

"Relational aggression, like physical aggression, is associated with psychosocial consequences for the victims, perpetrators, and even witnesses," she says. "Yet from a very young age, and continuously through early adolescence, youth perceive at least some forms of relational aggression to be less wrong than physical aggression."

child at the tableOther areas of her research explore parents' roles in managing relational aggression as well as the role jealousy and social anxiety play in adolescents' experiences with relational aggression.

Goldstein's work has been published in the Journal of Early Adolescence, the Journal of Genetic Psychology, and the Journal of Child and Family Studies.