Aggression form and function subtypes and social goal preferences in fifth-grade children
Martens, Jeffrey W.
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Childhood aggression is associated with maladaptive social information processing in general and maladaptive social goals in particular. Specifying aggression in terms of its form (i.e., overt, relational) and function (i.e., proactive, reactive) simultaneously may clarify existing research on aggression and social goals. The present study investigated the associations between aggression forms and functions (i.e., overt, relational, proactive, and reactive; peer-nomination measure) and select social goals (i.e., affiliation, avoidance, dominance, and revenge; self-report measure using hypothetical provocation vignettes) in 156 fifth-grade students while attempting to measure aggression forms and functions simultaneously and in a nonconfounded manner (e.g., indications of aggression form were omitted from aggression function items). Overt and proactive aggression were hypothesized to be associated with dominance goals while relational and reactive aggression were hypothesized to be associated with revenge goals. Associations were hypothesized to remain significant in hierarchical regression after entering gender and the alternate form or function of aggression in earlier steps. Hypotheses about select form-fimction interaction terms were also made (i.e., overt-proactive and dominance, relational-reactive and revenge). Hypotheses generally failed to be supported or could not be evaluated. While relational and reactive aggression were each positively associated with revenge goals, dominance was not associated with aggression. Also, both relational and reactive aggression failed to contribute significantly to the overall model in hierarchical regression when added at the final step. In contrast, aggression subtypes entered at the second step generally contributed significantly. Hypotheses regarding form-fimction interactions could not be evaluated. In contrast to the self-report measure of social goal preferences, the peernominated measure of aggression failed to differentiate anticipated factor structure (i.e., overt, relational, proactive, reactive) when all aggression items were evaluated simultaneously in principal components analysis. In contrast, a two-factor solution was generally supported (i.e., general, relational). Consistent with prior research, however, when only aggression form or function items were evaluated, but not both, principal components analyses generally supported anticipated factor structures (i.e., overt versus relational, proactive versus reactive). The present results challenge the broad form/ function distinction of childhood aggression. Study limitations and directions for future research were discussed.