Relational Aggression in Middle School: Gender, Self-Esteem, and Narcissism

Etty Mizrahi, Pace University


The construct of relational aggression was developed as a means of conceptualizing a female form of aggression in which the individual uses the relationship as a vehicle of harm, in contrast to more overt forms of aggressive behavior, historically associated with males in aggression literature. Additionally, while traditional theories have long held that a link exists between low self-esteem and aggression, more recent research has posited a link between high levels of narcissism and overt aggression. The primary goals of the current study were to explore the relationships between overt and relational aggression in a middle school sample within the context of the variables of gender, self-esteem, and narcissism. An evaluation of gender differences and the role of self-esteem and narcissism in the manifestation of overt and relational victimization was conducted. Original data was collected from 168 middle school students. Gender differences were found only in the manifestation of overt aggression and victimization along with relational victimization. Specifically, males were significantly more likely to utilize overt aggression and to experience overt victimization than were females, while females were more likely to experience relational victimization than were males. Results indicate support for the theory that higher levels of narcissism, including factors of superiority and exploitativeness, are associated with both overt and relational aggression. In contrast, self-esteem was not found to be a unique predictor of aggression. No significant interaction effects were found between gender and narcissism or between self-esteem and narcissism in the prediction of either relational or overt aggression. Exploratory analysis indicated a significant relationship between overt aggression and victimization for individuals with both low and high self-esteem. Implications for clinical and school psychology are discussed.

Subject Area

Clinical psychology

Recommended Citation

Mizrahi, Etty, "Relational Aggression in Middle School: Gender, Self-Esteem, and Narcissism" (2012). ETD Collection for Pace University. AAI3510565.



Remote User: Click Here to Login (must have Pace University remote login ID and password. Once logged in, click on the View More link above)