Asking the experts: an examination of relational and overt aggression using child reports
Existing research in the area of children's aggressive behaviour is predominantly focused on examining aggression and victimization within clinical populations of children. The goal of this research is to obtain insights into children's use and experience of aggression by examining a broad sample of children rather than extreme-group populations, as clinically and statistically significant differences exist between highly aggressive/victimized children and non-clinical samples of children. To this end, children from a community sample are used as expert reporters to provide vivid examples and rich information to allow for an examination of aggression as directed by the children themselves. Children from grades five through eight were included to obtain qualitative information about their experiences with aggression and their associated thoughts and feelings (Study 1). Based on the children's narratives from Study 1, scenarios and questions were developed to generate realistic research stimuli for closer, controlled examination involving an assessment of children's feelings, responses, and goals during aggressive altercations (Study 2). Findings from these two studies suggest that qualitative differences exist between clinical samples and non-clinical samples in terms of children's use and experience of aggression. The importance of understanding aggression in the context of normal peer interactions is highlighted, with an emphasis on examining 'successful' navigation of interactions involving aggression. Results are examined within a social information-processing framework. This work is relevant to generating treatment and intervention strategies and providing suggestions for enhancing coping in typical children.