Effects of pairing aggressive and nonaggressive children in strategic peer affiliation

Joel M. Hektner, Gerald J. August, George M. Realmuto

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

25 Scopus citations


Examined the behavior of 118 second graders who participated in a 6-week summer school program that incorporated strategic peer affiliation (a "buddy system"). Moderately aggressive children (the targets of the intervention) were paired with nonaggressive peers throughout the program. All participants were observed playing foosball with their buddies and with aggressive and nonaggressive nonbuddies as teammates. Aggressive children had lower levels of disruptive behavior when their teammate was nonaggressive, regardless of whether the teammate was a buddy. Nonaggressive children showed elevated disruptive behavior when playing with an aggressive nonbuddy, but not when playing with an aggressive buddy. The highest level of aggressive behavior was seen in pairs of aggressive teammates who were friends. One year later, no increase in peer-rated aggressive behavior was found in either group. Results suggest that unidirectional peer influence is possible and that strategic peer affiliation can be an effective intervention that does not put nonaggressive children at risk for acquiring undesired behaviors.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)399-412
Number of pages14
JournalJournal of Abnormal Child Psychology
Issue number4
StatePublished - Aug 2003

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This research was supported by the Center of Substance Abuse Prevention (CSAP) Grant SP 96-01, Cooperative Agreements for Prevention Studies on Predictor Variables By Developmental Stage, and by a grant from the Minnesota Medical Foundation.


  • Aggression
  • Intervention
  • Peer influence
  • Peer mentoring


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