Previous research dealing with aggression in schools had primarily focused on physically and verbally harmful behaviors involving hitting, pushing, and name calling.
A new study looked at how other forms of aggression involving victims’ relationships and peer standing could lead to school-related problems. The study also focused at the effect of witnessing relational aggression not just at being a victim of aggression. There has already been strong evidence that linked relational aggression with social anxiety, loneliness and depression, peer difficulties and substance abuse.

The researchers were concerned that the behaviors that intentionally harm another individual, through the manipulation of social relationships or relational aggression could be just as significant a concern for adolescent psychosocial development and mental health as physical bullying is.

The study involved school boys and girls ages 11-19 who were asked about their direct experience of being victims of both relational aggression and overt aggression as well as about their experience of witnessing both kinds of aggression.

The results showed that adolescents exposed to high levels of relational aggression perceived their school to be less safe and were less pleased with the general social atmosphere of the school. Adolescent boys who were exposed to relational aggression were also more likely to carry a weapon to school.

The study authors reported that the impact of school aggression is so great on a human being that it calls for creative means to detect relational aggression as well as address it in a manner that respects adolescents’ need for autonomy and discourages relationally aggressive behavior.