Developing Relationships, Being Cool, and Not Looking Like a Loser: Social Goal Orientation Predicts Children’s Responses to Peer Aggression


  • We would like to thank the families and schools who participated in this study. We are grateful to Hannah Banagale, Molly Bartlett, Sarah Kang, and Cathy Koerber for their assistance in data collection and management. This research was funded by a University of Illinois Arnold O. Beckman Award and National Institute of Mental Health Grant MH68444 awarded to Karen D. Rudolph.

concerning this article should be addressed to Karen D. Rudolph, Department of Psychology, 603 E. Daniel St., Champaign, IL 61820. Electronic mail may be sent to


This research explored the contribution of social goal orientation, specifically, development (improving social skills and relationships), demonstration-approach (gaining positive judgments), and demonstration-avoidance (minimizing negative judgments). Children (= 373; M age = 7.97, SD = .34) were followed from 2nd to 3rd grades. Validity of the social goal orientation construct was established through correlations with situation-specific goals and social adjustment. Development goals predicted adaptive responses (more effortful engagement, problem solving, advice seeking; fewer involuntary responses); demonstration goals predicted maladaptive responses (less effortful engagement, problem solving; more disengagement, retaliation). This study contributes to theoretical understanding of the process of peer aggression and interventions to promote optimal social health.