Forms and Functions of Adolescent Peer Aggression Associated With High Levels of Peer Status

Concurrent (Study 1) and longitudinal (Study 2) associations between adolescents' aggression, victimization, and high status were examined to test the hypothesis that forms and functions of aggression most likely to affect the status hierarchy will be associated with reputation-based measures of popularity. In Study 1, 235 10th -grade adolescents' overt, relational, and reputational forms of aggression and victimization were assessed. Functions of aggression (instrumental, reactive, bullying) within each form were also examined. Results supported the general prediction that aggression is associated with high peer-perceived popularity, but low likability (i.e., social preference) among peers. Significant curvilinear trends revealed a subtle association between aggression and low levels of popularity as well. Regarding forms and functions, results indicated that both the provocateurs and targets of reputational aggression had high levels of peer-perceived popularity; proactive uses of aggression were also associated with high popularity among adolescents, while reactive aggression was associated with low social preference. Longitudinal analyses of the same participants in Study 2 indicated that high peer-perceived popularity and low social preference predicted all forms of aggressive behavior over a 17-month interval. Overall, the results reveal complex associations between aggression and status that help to explain possible social reinforcement associated with aggression and clarify the pattern of heterogeneous aggressive behaviors exhibited by adolescents at various points along the status continuum.