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Rethinking Aggression: A Typological Examination of the Functions of Aggression

From: Merrill-Palmer Quarterly
Volume 49, Number 3, July 2003
pp. 343-369 | 10.1353/mpq.2003.0014


We compared five subgroups of aggressive youth (n = 1,723, Grades 5 through 10) on a number of adjustment correlates. The subgroups were determined by the self-reported functions (i.e., "why") of their aggressive behavior: (a) an "instrumental" group who were high on instrumental reasons only; (b) a "reactive" group who were high on reactive reasons only; (c) a "both" group who were high on both dimensions; (d) a "typical" group who were moderate on both dimensions; and (e) a "neither" group who were low on both dimensions. The reactive and both groups showed consistent maladaptive patterns across the adjustment correlates. The instrumental and typical groups both showed generally adaptive and well-adjusted patterns. Surprisingly, the neither group revealed high levels of aggressive acts and showed consistent maladaptive patterns on the correlates. These distinct profiles highlight the utility of a typological approach to classifying aggressive youth and have implications for both assessment and intervention.