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Keywords:

  • adolescent health;
  • African Americans;
  • mental health;
  • violence

ABSTRACT Objectives: The purpose of this study was to examine relational aggression and its relationship with adverse psychosocial and physical health symptoms among urban, African American youth.

Design and Sample: Quantitative, cross-sectional survey design.

The sample consisted of 185 predominantly African American (95.1%) seventh-grade students (mean age: 13.0; female: 58%) attending 4 urban middle schools.

Measures: The Children's Social Behavior Scale and Social Experience Questionnaire were used to measure relational aggression and relational victimization. The Pediatric Symptom Checklist was used to assess psychosocial difficulties, including internalizing behaviors, externalizing behaviors, and attention problems. Physical health symptoms were measured with questions about colds/flu, headaches, and stomach aches.

Results: 2-way multivariate analysis of variance revealed significant differences in externalizing behavior, with perpetrators reporting higher levels than nonperpetrators. Victims reported more internalizing behavior than nonvictims; however, this was only significant for males. For females, significant negative effects on health outcomes were found, resulting from the interaction of perpetration and victimization.

Conclusions: Findings suggest that relational aggression is a common occurrence among urban, minority adolescents and may result in adverse health outcomes. These results provide several avenues for future research and implications for healthcare practice. Intervention strategies are needed to prevent relational aggression and continual or subsequent adverse health symptoms.