Network ties and mean lies: a relational approach to relational aggression


  • This research was funded by a Provost Award for Graduate Research, a Dean's Scholar Fellowship from the University of Illinois at Chicago, and an NIMH National Research Service Award (1F32MH081426-01A1). The study was approved by the University of Illinois at Chicago's Institutional Review Board (Research Protocol ♯2006–0231). I would like to acknowledge Marc Atkins, David Henry, Zachary Neal, Pamela Popielarz, Karina Reyes, and Ed Trickett for their feedback on this paper, and Christine Haislup and Erin Stachowicz for their help with data collection. Finally, I would like to extend my gratitude toward the school staff and students at the elementary school where the data for this study were collected.


The current study considers how the structure of peer networks facilitates or constrains children's opportunities to engage in relationally aggressive behaviors such as social exclusion and rumor spreading. Specifically, the influence of two network features, centrality and density, on relational aggression are explored using grade-level behavioral and social network data collected on a demographically diverse sample of 144 third through eighth grade urban elementary school students. As hypothesized, these network features influenced levels of teacher-rated and peer-nominated relational aggression beyond the effects of demographic characteristics (i.e., gender and grade). Results revealed that relational aggression is influenced not only by who children are, but also by where they are located in the peer context. Implications for future research and intervention are offered. © 2009 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.