Aggression in humans can be classified as physical aggression or relational aggression. While physical aggression can be easily detected by an observer, relational aggression usually goes unnoticed. Women and children are more prone to this form of aggression.
What is Relational Aggression?
Relational Aggression is a type of aggression in which we try to be mean and hurt someone by calling names, excluding them from one’s social group, ignoring them, using sarcasm, defaming them on social media, spreading rumors etc.
Since human beings are social animals, we have a tendency to connect to others. Our mind can easily get affected by the action of others. Hence, relational aggression causes no less harm as physical aggression does.
Relational Aggression in Children
Experiment (by American Psychological Association)
Three children were asked to paint a picture and 3 crayons were provided, 1 good and 2 useless white crayons. Their behavior was observed by their teachers and researchers for 10 minutes. The experiment was performed for 8 consecutive days. Significant amount of relational aggression was seen even in children who were just 30 months old. Hence, relational aggression starts at a very early age. The rates of physical and relational aggression were agreed upon by both the observers (involved in the research) and the participating teachers.
What should parents do?
It has been found that relational aggression is very common even in kindergarten and parents need to find ways to prevent their child from becoming a victim.
- Parents themselves should remain kind in their behavior and not aggressive.
- Children should not be allowed to watch programmes that show relational aggression. This is because, once they see it on the TV, they consider it as cool and socially acceptable.
- It has been found that even educational media tends to increase relational aggressiveness in children as they are usually not able to interpret the moral behind the programme. Hence, high quality comprehensible programmes should be shown to the kids. - Children should be taught that showing aggression may hurt someone.
- Suppose a group of friends tells your kid that they will not play with him or her. Instead of getting too much into making things better between that group and the kid, ask him to look for a new group or a new set of friends. This will take away the feeling of exclusion.
- Sometimes, we really do not mean to show relational aggression but hurt someone unknowingly. We should try to rectify it by showing empathy and care. Teaching children empathy can motivate them to sympathize with others. They should also stand up for others if they find that he or she is becoming a victim of relational aggression.
- Many girls have to deal with this issue at a very young age. They usually think that they are the only ones who are suffering from such problems. Mostly, parents leave it on the child to figure out the solution and do not intervene. But, if the problem persists, they need to take some action.
- Step1: Observe your child’s behavior and figure out if they are being bullied.
- Step2: Get connected to the kids so that you can understand their problem it a better way.
- Step3: Guide your child: Give them the ideas, let them chose what they want and take the feedback from them. Step 4: Support their act
Aggression and Gender
In an observational project of experimental psychology, it was shown that boys show more aggressive behavior than girls.
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But Girls can be particularly good at relational aggression, may be because they are linguistically stronger than boys. They are also hurt more on a relational level as compared to boys.
Relational aggression among girls may lead to depression, low self- esteem and increases the risk of suicides. Even the bullies may suffer from depression or self-harming acts. Hence, parents need to talk to their daughters and even talk among themselves. They should guide their daughters regarding issues like when to ignore and when to stand up for oneself.
What should schools do?
Using the database from NICHD, it has been found that relational aggression in 3rd standard leads to loneliness in 5th standard and relational victimization in 6th standard. Hence, it has now become important for the schools to include relational aggression in aggressive behavior. Relation aggression is usually overlooked as compared to physical aggression as it is not easily observable. School should devise methods detect and decrease relational aggression so as to create a positive environment in the school͘ “Boys will be boys” and “Girls would be girls” does not justify bullying͘
Relation aggressiveness is common both among elementary school kids as well as teenagers. Because teenagers are more socially, verbally and cognitively skilled, they are able to target the victim more effectively, and cover themselves͘ lso, adolescents don’t like adults’ interference in their lives, which makes it difficult to tackle the situation.
Identifying relationally aggressive children and adolescents
- Second Hand Reports: This includes interviewing students, parents and teachers. However this can be just used for getting information about a particular child who is behaving oddly. Further, teachers and parents may be unaware about the child’s internal state͘
- Sociometric Measures: Asking students to nominate bullies and rank them͘ However this requires parent’s permission which is difficult to get.
Bullying intervention programmes exist but they are not very efficient. Also, they have not been psychologically researched.
- Creating a friendly atmosphere between the teachers and the students in a school, so that they become more approachable, can help the victims.
Overall, relational aggression is a threat to a culture of teamwork, friendship and social interaction. It disrupts the potential of the victim. Hence, it should be dealt in an efficient manner.