The validity of physical aggression in predicting adolescent academic performance


Correspondence should be addressed to James Loveland, Department of Psychology, Louisiana Tech University, Box 10048, Ruston, LA 71272, USA (e-mail:


Background. Aggression has a long history in academic research as both a criterion and a predictor variable and it is well documented that aggression is related to a variety of poor academic outcomes such as: lowered academic performance, absenteeism and lower graduation rates. However, recent research has implicated physical aggression as being predictive of lower academic performance.

Aims. The purpose of this study was to examine the role of the ‘Big Five’ personality traits of agreeableness, openness to experience, conscientiousness, neuroticism and extraversion and physical aggression in predicting the grade point averages (GPA) of adolescent students and to investigate whether or not there were differences in these relationships between male and female students.

Sample. A sample of 992 students in grades 9 to 12 from a high school in south-eastern USA as part of a larger study examining the students' preparation for entry into the workforce.

Method. The study was correlational in nature: students completed a personality inventory developed by the second author with the GPA information supplied by the school.

Results. Results indicated that physical aggression accounts for 16% of variance in GPA and it adds 7% to the prediction of GPA beyond the Big Five. The Big Five traits added only 1.5% to the prediction of GPA after controlling for physical aggression. Interestingly, a significantly larger amount of variance in GPA was predicted by physical aggression for females than for males.

Conclusions. Aggression accounts for significantly more variance in the GPA of females than for males, even when controlling for the Big Five personality factors. Future research should examine the differences in the expression of aggression in males and females, as well as how this is affecting interactions between peers and between students and their teachers.