Physiological stress reactivity and physical and relational aggression: The moderating roles of victimization, type of stressor, and child gender

Dianna Murray-Close, Nicki R. Crick, Wan Ling Tseng, Nicole Lafko, Casey Burrows, Clio Pitula, Peter Ralston

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

21 Scopus citations

Abstract

The purpose of the present investigation was to examine the association between physiological reactivity to peer stressors and physical and relational aggression. Potential moderation by actual experiences of peer maltreatment (i.e., physical and relational victimization) and gender were also explored. One hundred ninety-six children (M = 10.11 years, SD = 0.64) participated in a laboratory stress protocol during which their systolic blood pressure, diastolic blood pressure, and skin conductance reactivity to recounting a relational stressor (e.g., threats to relationships) and an instrumental stressor (e.g., threats to physical well-being, dominance, or property) were assessed. Teachers provided reports of aggression and victimization. In both boys and girls, physical aggression was associated with blunted physiological reactivity to relational stress and heightened physiological reactivity to instrumental stress, particularly among youth higher in victimization. In girls, relational aggression was most robustly associated with blunted physiological reactivity to relational stressors, particularly among girls exhibiting higher levels of relational victimization. In boys, relational aggression was associated with heightened physiological reactivity to both types of stressors at higher levels of peer victimization and blunted physiological reactivity to both types of stressors at lower levels of victimization. Results underscore the shared and distinct emotional processes underlying physical and relational aggression in boys and girls.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)589-603
Number of pages15
JournalDevelopment and psychopathology
Volume26
Issue number3
DOIs
StatePublished - Aug 2014
Externally publishedYes

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