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Aggressive Behaviors in Social Interaction and Developmental Adaptation: A Narrative Analysis of Interpersonal Conflicts During Early Adolescence


Correspondence concerning this article should be addressed to Hongling Xie, Center for Developmental Science, 100 East Franklin Street, CB#8115, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Chapel Hill, NC 27599–8115, USA. Email:


Using conflict narratives reported by adolescents in grade 7 (mean age = 13.4 years), this study investigated the interactional properties and developmental functions of four types of aggressive behaviors: social aggression, direct relational aggression, physical aggression, and verbal aggression. A total of 475 participants from the Carolina Longitudinal Study (Cairns & Cairns, 1994) were included. Results showed that the majority of conflict interactions involved more than a dyad. The use of social aggression (e.g., concealed social attack) was associated with more individuals involved in the conflict. Social aggression was primarily reported as an initiating behavior for interpersonal conflicts, while direct relational aggression was a responding behavior. Medium to high levels of reciprocity were found for physical, verbal, and direct relational aggression, whereas a low level of reciprocity was reported for social aggression. School authorities were most likely to intervene in physical aggression. The use of social aggression was associated with higher network centrality among adolescents. Developmental maladjustment in late adolescence and early adulthood was primarily predicted by physical aggression.