This study explores the relations between the functional subtypes of relational aggression (proactive and reactive) and difficulties with emotion regulation (cognitive reappraisal, expressive suppression). Further, it examines the moderating role of parental attachment including parental availability and dependency in these associations. Based on previous research, it was expected that difficulties in emotion regulation strategies would be associated with reactive but not with proactive relational aggression, and these links would be moderated by self-reported attachment quality to both parents.
Participants of the study were 518 Greek junior high school students (50% girls), aged between 12 tο 16 (M = 13.66, SD = 1.13) who completed a self-report questionnaire.
The results showed that expressive suppression holds a positive association only with reactive but not with proactive relational aggression, while low maternal attachment security was linked to both proactive and reactive relational aggression. Moderation analyses also revealed that at low levels of perceived dependency on father the expressive suppression was negatively associated with student’s engagement in proactive relational aggression. The findings also evidenced that gender differentiates adolescents’ self-reported engagement in proactive RA and perceived dependency on father for males as well as cognitive reappraisal for females.
The importance of exploring interpersonal factors along with individual traits in the interpretation of relational aggression is discussed.