Childhood Maltreatment and the Development of Relational and Physical Aggression: The Importance of a Gender-Informed Approach


  • This research was supported, in part, by grants awarded to Dante Cicchetti, PhD, from the National Institute of Drug Abuse (DA 17741) and the Office of Child Abuse and Neglect and the Spunk Fund Inc. and to Nicki R. Crick, PhD, from the National Institute on Child Health and Development. We are grateful to the children, families, counselors, and research staff at the Mount Hope Family Center, Rochester, NY, who participated in this work.

concerning this article should be addressed to Crystal Cullerton-Sen, School of Education, University of Wisconsin–Stout, 411 McCalmont Hall, Menomonie, WI 54751. Electronic mail may be sent to


This investigation examined the associations between maltreatment and aggression using a gender-informed approach. Peer ratings, peer nominations, and counselor reports of aggression were collected on 211 maltreated and 199 nonmaltreated inner-city youth (M age = 9.9 years) during a summer day camp. Maltreatment was associated with aggressive conduct; however, these effects were qualified by gender, maltreatment subtype, and the form of aggression under investigation. Findings revealed that maltreatment was associated with physical aggression for boys and relational aggression for girls. Physical abuse was associated with physically aggressive behaviors, but sexual abuse predicted relational aggression for girls only. Findings suggest that investigating the interaction between familial risk and gender is important in understanding aggressive behaviors of boys and girls.