Prosocial and Coercive Configurations of Resource Control in Early Adolescence: A Case for the Well-Adapted Machiavellian

Self- and other-reported characteristics of children who varied in their use of coercive (aggressive) and prosocial (cooperative) strategies of resource control were studied in a sample of over 1,700 children. Based on self-reported use of coercive and prosocial strategies of resource control, the children were categorized as bistrategic controllers (Machiavellians), coercive controllers, prosocial controllers, noncontrollers, or typicals. Self-reported positive characteristics (e.g., agreeableness), negative characteristics (e.g., hostility), and self-assessments (e.g., social self-concept) were measured as well as peer ratings of aggression and peer regard (e.g., likability, popularity) and teacher ratings of agreeableness, aggression, and social acceptance. As hypothesized, the subtypes differed across these variables in predictable ways. Specifically, Machiavellians (i.e., those using both strategies of resource control) emerged as possessing positive and negative characteristics and, despite their aggression, Machiavellians were socially central, liked by peers, socially skilled, and well adjusted. The utility of an evolutionary perspective to resource control and social competence is discussed as an additional model of aggression.