Director: Eric R. Dahlen, Ph.D.
Here’s the abstract from the upcoming paper:
The citation is as follows:
Relational aggression has been linked to many forms of psychological maladjustment. Identifying the personality traits associated with the perpetration of relational aggression offers promise in improving our ability to understand, prevent, and treat relationally aggressive behaviors. Much of the research to date has utilized the Five Factor Model; however, the HEXACO model of personality (Ashton et al., 2004) may offer some advantages in studying aggression. Moreover, the manipulative and often covert nature of relational aggression suggests that the Dark Triad personality traits are likely to be relevant. This study explored the utility of the HEXACO model and Dark Triad in predicting relational aggression in college students’ (N = 442) peer relationships. Honesty-Humility, Agreeableness, Conscientiousness, and Openness predicted proactive and reactive relational aggression, and Emotionality also predicted reactive relational aggression. Pathological narcissism and psychopathy predicted proactive and reactive relational aggression while taking respondent gender and the full HEXACO model into account, with vulnerable narcissism and psychopathy serving as positive predictors and grandiose narcissism serving as a negative predictor. Findings support the utility of both the HEXACO and Dark Triad models in understanding peer relational aggression among emerging adults.
Knight, N. M., Dahlen, E. R., Bullock-Yowell, E., & Madson, M. B. (in press). The HEXACO model of personality and Dark Triad in relational aggression. Personality and Individual Differences.
There is reason to believe that social and emotional intelligence are positive predictors of relational aggression, and some have suggested that certain levels of these forms of intelligence might be necessary for relational aggression to occur (or at least to be successful). At the same time, there is no reason to think that social or emotional intelligence would be sufficient to produce relational aggression. Thus, we plan to examine the degree to which psychopathic traits might inform our understanding of this relationship.
Congratulations to Savannah on a successful thesis proposal!
Their work led to a poster presentation at Mississippi State University’s Summer Undergraduate Research Symposium (poster available here as a .pdf file). Both Amber and Philip were able to attend the symposium at Mississippi State and found it to be a positive experience. Congratulations to both on their success.
What is a master’s project? When students with master’s degrees who did not complete a formal master’s thesis during their master’s program are admitted to the Counseling Psychology Doctoral Program, they complete a master’s project before beginning work on their dissertations. A master’s project involves the completion of an independent research project that is similar to a master’s thesis but does not usually involve a thesis committee. These projects provide students with an opportunity to progress through the entire research process before taking on a dissertation. In addition to familiarizing the student with all aspects of research, they provide faculty with a clear sense of the student’s strengths and weaknesses, leading to the identification of appropriate training goals.
Taylor did a fantastic job with her master’s project, and we anticipate that she will have little difficulty transitioning into her dissertation work.
In spite of the increased interest received by relational aggression among emerging adults, the lack of psychometrically sound measures appropriate for this age range continues to be an important barrier. Caitlin’s dissertation, Validation of the Young Adult Relational Aggression Scale (YARAS), attempted to confirm the hypothesized factor structure of a new measure as well as assess its reliability and validity in a college student sample.
Although she was able to identify a suitable factor structure, doing so required her to correlate several items and meant that the predicted structure could not technically be confirmed (i.e., the confirmatory procedures became exploratory). Nevertheless, we learned a great deal about the construct and the new measure that should inform future work aimed at refining the measure.
Congratulations to Caitlin on completing this important milestone!
Caitlin is currently completing her predoctoral internship at the Bay Pines VA Healthcare System in Florida and has accepted a postdoctoral fellowship next year at the Michael E. DeBakey VA Medical Center in Houston.
One of the challenges in this area of research involves the lack of consensus in how electronic aggression (aka, cyber aggression, cyberbullying) should be defined and measured (Berne et al., 2013). Taylor is using what appears to be one of the better self-report measures available for emerging adults, the Cyberbullying Experiences Survey (Doane et al., 2013). We anticipate that her findings will provide useful information about the relationship between electronic aggression and offline relational aggression and between various dark personality traits and electronic aggression.
Although the literature on relational aggression among emerging adults has advanced considerably over the last couple decades, surprisingly little is known about the role of culture in general and the nature of relational aggression among LGBT persons in particular. Daniel's dissertation, Hypermasculine, antifeminine: The role of masculine identity in relational aggression among gay men, examined relational aggression and victimization among gay men using Exclusively Masculine Identity Theory (EMIT; Killanski, 2003). Daniel's study utilized structural equation modeling to test models derived from EMIT in an effort to learn more about the possible role of adherence to masculine ideology and sex stereotypically.
The men who participated in Daniel's study differed from those described in some of the previously published research in terms of the masculine and feminine traits they considered desirable. Contrary to what we expected, participants with an exclusively masculine identity (i.e., those who had a more masculine ideal self and a more feminine undesired self) reported lower rates of relational aggression. Thus, while EMIT was useful in predicting relational aggression, the direction of the relationship was not what was anticipated. Daniel's results also suggest that certain domains of masculine ideology may be more useful in predicting relational aggression and victimization than the full EMIT model.
Daniel is currently completing his predoctoral internship at the University of Memphis Counseling Center in Memphis, TN.
If emotion regulation moderates the relationship between anger and relational aggression, this may have implications for the treatment of relationally aggressive individuals. For example, such findings might indicate that anger management and other interventions aimed at improving emotion regulation could be beneficial for relationally aggressive young adults.
Skylar is a second-year doctoral student working in the Anger and Traffic Psychology Lab. She completed her undergraduate work at the University of New Orleans and entered the Counseling Psychology Doctoral Program in the Fall of 2015.
Congratulations to Skylar on the successful proposal!
Indirect aggression describes forms of aggressive behavior that can be described as non-confrontational, manipulative, or concealed. It is similar to relational aggression in many ways; however, relational aggression can be direct or indirect, and indirect aggression can be broader in the behaviors it involves. The constructs Niki has selected are theoretically relevant to indirect aggression, and it is reasonable to test them as predictors. There has been little research directly linking them to indirect aggression even though all have been shown to predict direct aggression.
Niki is an advanced doctoral student working in the Anger and Traffic Psychology Lab who is in the process of applying for a predoctoral internship this year. Her previous work involved an examination of normal and dark personality traits in the context of relational aggression. With a successful dissertation proposal behind her, she will soon be able to begin data collection on her study.
Congratulations to Niki!
It is hoped that making information like this more accessible will allow mental health professionals to approach the complex subject of bullying in a more informed manner and to make a difference in their communities.
Congratulations to Ashley on a successful proposal!
Bryant and Smith (2001) developed a 12-item short form of the AQ that retains the four-factor structure and appears to have some psychometric advantages over the original, including improved model fit. This version, referred to as the Buss-Perry Aggression Questionnaire - Short Form (BPAQ-SF) in the literature, provides researchers interested in studying aggression with a more efficient alternative to the AQ.
In addition to Bryant and Smith's (2001) work testing the BPAQ-SF in multiple data sets, Kalmoe (2015) found support for the BPAQ-SF in nationally representative U.S. and college student samples. Slightly modified versions of the BPAQ-SF have also been used with mentally ill male offenders (Diamond, Wang, & Buffington-Vollum, 2005) and federal offenders (Diamond & Magaletta, 2006).
Thus, the BPAQ-SF provides researchers wanting to measure trait aggression with a relatively brief but psychometrically sound option.
Daniel's dissertation focuses on gay men's experiences of social aggression within the gay community and gender presentation (i.e., masculinity, femininity). Essentially, his study addresses experiences of marginalization within an already marginalized population. Participation consists of completing an online survey that should take between 15 and 30 minutes and has been approved by the Institutional Review Board (IRB) of the University of Southern Mississippi. Participation is voluntary, anonymous, and can be terminated at any time.
For each participant who completes the survey, Daniel plans to donate $1 to the Trevor Project, a suicide hotline for LGBTQ+ youth and young adults.
To participate, please go to the following hyperlink to access the consent form and online survey: http://thegaystudy.org
Please consider sharing this post with any individuals or relevant groups (e.g., Gay-Straight Alliances) you know who may be interested in participating.
They characterize electronic aggression as an "emerging public health problem" and note it has been linked to a number of problems among youth, including increased victimization, emotional distress, and conduct problems. Finally they provide downloadable resources for educators, parents and caregivers, and researchers.
At the Anger and Traffic Psychology Lab, we have just started collecting data for a new study on electronic aggression among college students. We are hoping to learn more about how to measure it effectively and how it relates to some of the dark personality variables we have been studying.
Consensus definitions of these constructs have been elusive (Zalaquett & Chatters, 2014), and the lack of consistently used and psychometrically sound measures has made it difficult to compare findings across studies. As a result, many basic questions about the nature of cyber aggression remain unanswered.
The lab is planning to begin collecting data soon for a study on cyber aggression. We hope to evaluate one of the more promising measures for assessing this behavior among college students and learn something about its correlates. Given the mounting evidence that these behaviors are associated with a number of adverse correlates for both aggressors and targets (e.g., Beran et al., 2012; Gini & Pozzoli, 2013), we believe the topic is worth investigating.
With regard to the HEXACO model, the factors of Honesty-Humility and Agreeableness were positively associated with proactive and reactive relational aggression in peer relationships. Machiavellian, narcissistic, and psychopathic traits were positively associated with reactive relational aggression; narcissistic and psychopathic but not Machiavellian traits were positively associated with proactive relational aggression. Taken together, Niki's results supported the utility of both the HEXACO model and the Dark Triad constructs in predicting peer relational aggression among college students.
Niki is a doctoral student in her third year of the program and will soon begin work on her dissertation.
Congratulations to Niki on a successful defense!
Many of the existing measures one finds in the adult relational aggression literature were adapted from measures developed with children and early adolescents. Others were developed for use in individual studies and have little evidence of reliability or validity. Still others are difficult to obtain because they were never published, have different versions without clear instructions for use, or do not distinguish between the proactive and reactive functions of relational aggression. Our hope is that the YARAS will be able to improve upon these and other limitations of existing instruments.
Caitlin is an advanced doctoral student working in the Anger and Traffic Psychology Lab who is in the process of applying for a predoctoral internship this year. With her successful dissertation proposal, she will soon be able to begin data collection.
Congratulations to Caitlin on completing this important milestone!
Despite evidence that relationally aggressive behaviors can cause problems for emerging adults, little is known about the nature of relational aggression among persons who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender (LGBT). Daniel's dissertation, Hypermasculine, antifeminine: The role of masculine identity in relational aggression among gay men, will examine relational aggression and victimization in the peer relationships of gay men using Exclusively Masculine Identity Theory (EMIT; Kilianski, 2003). Specifically, he aims to test a model derived from EMIT in which adherence to masculine ideology is examined as a potential moderator of the predicted relationship between an index of participants' sex stereotypically and their report of relational aggression and victimization.
Congratulations to Daniel on presenting a complex proposal so clearly!
Congratulations to Caitlin, Daniel, Niki, and Ashley on a job well done!
Clark, C. M., Dahlen, E. R., & Nicholson, B. C. (2015). The role of parenting in relational aggression and prosocial behavior among emerging adults. Journal of Aggression, Maltreatment & Trauma, 24, 185-202. doi: 10.1080/10926771.2015.1002653
Our new measure aims to assess general/peer relational aggression and romantic relation aggression on separate scales and to permit each type of relational aggression to be divided into proactive and reactive functions. For example, a relational aggressive behavior like spreading a malicious rumor about a friend behind his or her back could be proactive (i.e., unprovoked, planned, done for gain) or reactive (i.e., done out of anger or in response to provocation, unplanned, impulsive). We also included items designed to measure electronic forms of relational aggression, a dimension important to college students but not found in existing measures.
Instrument development is usually a length and complex endeavor. We started by conducting a literature review in order to make sure we had a clear definition of relational aggression. We then developed an initial item set on the basis of focus groups with college students and a review of existing measures appropriate to either adolescents or adults. The focus groups were especially useful because they revealed some important limitations of existing measures and provided us with ideas for relevant content that had not occurred to us. After several rounds of revising items, we submitted our item set to several experts on relational aggression. We revised the item set again based on the input of the expert reviewers. Now we are close to completing the step of administering the new items along with a few existing measures of relational aggression and related constructs to a large sample of college students. This will allow us to examine the factor structure of the item set, reduce the number of items while maximizing reliability, and examine the concurrent and discriminant validity of the resulting measure.
While we hope to complete this phase of the project this semester, many additional steps will remain. In fact, we are planning for the next few steps to be carried out as Caitlin Clark's dissertation. We will be at this project for awhile, but we hope to end up with a measure that has some useful advantages over the option currently available.
Although work at the Anger and Traffic Psychology Lab focuses on aggressive behavior among young adults and the term bullying is generally reserved for children, we are happy to see this behavior receiving more attention. Not only does bullying take a toll on the health and well being of children and their families, but it is clear that the effects of bullying during childhood continue to impact people into their adult years.
Stopbullying.gov, a government website managed by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, is developing an active social media presence at Tumbr, Facebook, and Twitter to raise awareness and provide information about this important topic.
In examining the zero-order correlations between the FFM constructs and relational aggression, both peer and romantic relational aggression were inversely related to agreeableness, conscientiousness, and emotional stability (i.e., the inverse of neuroticism). Thus, more relationally aggressive students scored lower on agreeableness, conscientiousness, and emotional stability.
When peer relational aggression and romantic relational aggression were each regressed on the five FFM constructs, extraversion, agreeableness, and emotional stability emerged as significant predictors. Students reporting more relational aggression tended to be more extraverted, less agreeable, and have lower emotional stability.
Based on the literature, the strongest case could be made for the role of agreeableness and emotional stability. So, sequential regressions designed to take student gender and race into account were conducted. Agreeableness and emotional stability predicted peer relational aggression; emotional stability predicted romantic relational aggression.
Finally, the incremental validity of social anxiety and rejection sensitivity was tested over and above participant gender, race, and the full FFM. Social anxiety but not rejection sensitivity demonstrated evidence of incremental validity here. Interestingly, extraversion joined agreeableness and emotional stability as predictors of both peer and romantic relational aggression, suggesting that this variable may be more relevant than was previously thought.
Additional analyses will be needed to better evaluate the potential role of participant gender and race, so we will be sure to share them here once they are completed.
We recently started collecting data for a couple of studies examining the possible role of the Dark Triad constructs in relational aggression and how they fit into broader models of personality, such as the Five Factor Model and the HEXACO model of personality.
These studies fit our goal of learning more about relational aggression among emerging adults. In addition, it seems that the study of dark personality constructs may be beneficial in some of our other research areas (e.g., anger and traffic psychology).
The paper, titled "The role of parenting in relational aggression and prosocial behavior among emerging adults," continues the lab's research on relational aggression in college students. Results indicated that students' retrospective ratings of how they were parented were related to both relational aggression and prosocial behavior. Authoritative parenting, permissive parenting, and parental psychological control predicted relational aggression. Authoritarian, authoritative, and permissive parenting predicted prosocial behavior, and participant race moderated the relationship between psychological control and prosocial behavior (i.e., parental psychological control was inversely related to prosocial behavior for Black students but not for White students).
Niki's thesis will examine the relationships between the constructs represented by the HEXACO personality model and relational aggression in college students, focusing on the role of Honesty-Humility and Agreeableness. Additionally, she will assess the predictive utility of the Dark Triad constructs (i.e., narcissism, Machiavellianism, and psychopathy) in predicting proactive and reactive relational aggression.
Research conducted at the Anger and Traffic Psychology Lab has focused on contributing to the growing literature on relational aggression in college students. Below is a summary of three recent studies conducted at the lab.
1. Czar, Dahlen, Bullock, and Nicholson (2011) explored the potential role of psychopathic personality traits in relational aggression among college students. Both primary and secondary psychopathic traits predicted relational aggression, and these relationships did not vary by gender. This suggests that psychopathic traits (e.g., a lack of empathy or remorse, dishonesty, impulsivity, antisocial behavior), known to predict overt aggression, may also be relevant to understanding relational aggression.
2. Prather, Dahlen, Nicholson, and Bullock-Yowell (2012) found that male and female college students reported engaging in similar levels of relational aggression in their dating relationships. Students with traditional (as opposed to egalitarian) sex role attitudes were more likely to engage in dating relational aggression, regardless of gender. In addition, the acceptance of couple violence predicted dating relational aggression over and above trait anger and sex role attitudes. Taken together, the results suggest that college students who experience more frequent and intense anger than their peers, hold traditional sex role attitudes, and are more accepting of intimate partner violence are more likely to commit acts of relational aggression in their dating relationships.
3. Dahlen, Czar, Prather, and Dyess (2013) found that college students who described themselves as more relationally aggression reported higher levels of anxiety, depression, anger, loneliness, academic burnout, and the misuse of alcohol. The correlates of relational victimization were similar, suggesting that both relational aggression and victimization can be disruptive to college students' social and emotional functioning. Dahlen and colleagues (2013) also found that anxiety, trait anger, and personal problems related to alcohol use predicted relational aggression in peer relationships while taking students' gender, race, and experiences with relational victimization into account.
Daniel's thesis, Personality and Relational Aggression in College Students: The Role of Social Anxiety and Rejection Sensitivity, will examine the utility of the Five Factor Model (FFM) of personality, social anxiety, and rejection sensitivity in predicting relational aggression between peers and romantic partners. We expect that some of the Big Five personality factors will predict relational aggression but that social anxiety and rejection sensitivity will explain additional variance in relational aggression beyond the contribution of the FFM.
Caitlin will enter the doctoral program in the Fall and plans to continue her work on aggression.
The brief abstract for the paper is below:
For this study we explored relational aggression and victimization in a college sample (N = 307), examining potential gender and race differences, correlates, and the link between relational aggression and common emotional and behavioral problems, independent of relational victimization. Gender and race differences were observed on relational aggression and victimization. Relational aggression in peer and intimate relationships was positively correlated with depression, anxiety, stress, anger, and alcohol problems. Independent of gender, race, and relational victimization, peer relational aggression was predicted by anxiety, trait anger, and personal problems related to alcohol use.
David Boudreaux, a third-year doctoral student working in the lab, co-authored a paper with Deirdre Paulson and Dr. Melanie Leuty, How Do Anger and Culture Affect Mental Health Practice? Deirdre is a second-year doctoral student working in Dr. Leuty's Work & Occupations Research Collaboration Team.
Congratulations to Michelle on having the poster and presentation accepted!
On February 29, 2012, Emily Prather, David Boudreaux, and Caitlin Clark will present “Understanding Anger and Relational Aggression” at 6:30 PM on the University of Southern Mississippi’s Hattiesburg campus.
Learn about the difference between healthy and unhealthy anger, brief strategies for managing anger effectively, and when to seek help for yourself or a loved one. The presenters will also address relational aggression, a behavior associated with bullying in which the aggressor harms the victim’s reputation, status, or feelings of belonging through social exclusion, gossip, etc.). Learn about its relation to anger and its importance in the psychological well-being of adolescents and young adults.
The presentation will be held in Room 109 of Owings-McQuagge Hall. It is free and open to the public.
Congratulations to Emily!
An additional next step we hope to tackle involves determining whether the predicted relationships between adult attachment and relational aggression persist independent of one's global personality traits (i.e., the "Big Five" personality factors). Another involves examining some of the variables which we suspect may moderate the relationship between attachment and relational aggression (e.g., anger, perceived social support, etc.).
Congratulations to Kate on an excellent defense!
Prather, E., Dahlen, E. R., Nicholson, B. C., & Bullock-Yowell, E. (in press). Relational aggression in college students’ dating relationships. Journal of Aggression, Maltreatment & Trauma.
Emily is an advanced doctoral student working in the lab. She is currently developing her dissertation proposal.
Southern participants reported more general/peer and romantic relational aggression and more traditional gender role attitudes than did Northern participants. Gender role attitudes were associated with relational aggression in that more traditional gender roles were positively correlated with relational aggression. Beliefs about the acceptability of relational aggression did not differ by region.
Psychologists have been studying relational aggression since the mid-1990s, and it has long been recognized as a problem by many parents of school-aged children. However, it took the 2004 film Mean Girls to bring relational aggression to the attention of the larger public. Since then, the costs of relational aggression among children and early adolescents have become increasingly clear. Victims are more likely to suffer from a variety of psychological problems, including anxiety and depression; both victims and aggressors are more likely to misuse substances and engage in a number of delinquent behaviors (Archer & Coyne, 2005; Sullivan, Farrell, & Kliewer, 2006).
Surprisingly little is known about relational aggression among older adolescents and adults, but this is slowly starting to change. Research is underway to investigate the nature of relationally aggressive behaviors among college students. One of the interesting findings to emerge so far is that the gender difference observed among children and younger adolescents (i.e., relational aggression is more common among girls) does not appear to be present.
“Sidewalk rage” is a relatively new term being used to describe aggressive behavior between pedestrians, but it is already starting to generate interest in major cities. According to the article, a measure of pedestrian aggressiveness has been developed, and this should facilitate additional research. It will be interesting to see how pedestrian aggressiveness compares to aggressive driving. I expect the processes underlying both conditions to be similar; however, I would not be surprised to find some important differences as well. For example, I suspect that impatience may play a bigger role in aggression among pedestrians than it does among drivers.
Surprisingly little is known about relational aggression among college students. Emily's thesis explored the role of sex role egalitarianism, gender, and acceptance of couple violence in college students' dating relationships. She found that acceptance of couple violence predicted the perpetration of relational aggression, independent of trait anger and sex role egalitarianism. Although both respondent gender and sex role egalitarianism predicted relational aggression, there was no evidence that gender moderated the relationship between sex role egalitarianism and relational aggression. For both male and female students, more traditional (i.e., less egalitarian) sex role attitudes were associated with a greater tendency to engage in relationally aggressive behaviors.
Czar, K. A., Dahlen, E. R., Bullock-Yowell, E., & Nicholson, B. C. (in press). Psychopathic personality traits in relational aggression among young adults. Aggressive Behavior.
The paper addresses the potential role of psychopathic personality traits in relational aggression among college students. Findings showed that psychopathic personality traits predicted peer and romantic relational aggression, even when controlling for physical aggressiveness. Neither the frequency with which relationally aggressive behaviors were reported nor the link between psychopathic traits and relational aggression differed by participant gender.
Kate is an advanced doctoral student working in the lab, and we are proud of her efforts. She proposed her dissertation recently and will begin collecting data soon.
Although relational aggression has been widely studied among children and early adolescents, much less is known about it among older adolescents and adults. One particular area which has received little attention to date concerns the role of culture in relational aggression. Kate's dissertation, "Regional Differences in Relational Aggression: The Role of Culture," will focus on examining potential regional differences (i.e., North-South) in the U.S. Differing norms and expectations governing aggressive behavior, particularly among women, are expected to manifest themselves in different rates and perceptions of relational aggression. Relational aggression, normative beliefs about relational aggression, and gender role egalitarianism are among the variables which Kate will examine.