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01-12-2013 | Empirical Research | Uitgave 12/2013

Journal of Youth and Adolescence 12/2013

Physical Aggression, Spreading of Rumors, and Social Prominence in Early Adolescence: Reciprocal Effects Supporting Gender Similarities?

Journal of Youth and Adolescence > Uitgave 12/2013
Jaana Juvonen, Yueyan Wang, Guadalupe Espinoza


There is a robust association between aggression and social prominence by early adolescence, yet findings regarding the direction of influence remain inconclusive in light of gender differences across various forms of aggressive behaviors. The current study examined whether physical aggression and spreading of rumors, as two gender-typed aggressive behaviors that differ in overt displays of power, promote and/or maintain socially prominent status for girls and boys during non-transitional grades in middle school. Peer nominations were used to assess physical aggression, spreading of rumors, and “cool” reputation (social prominence) during three time points between the spring of seventh grade and spring of eighth grade. Participants included 1,895 (54 % female) ethnically diverse youth: 47 % Latino, 22 % African-American, 11 % Asian, 10 % White and 10 % Other/Mixed ethnic background. Cross-lagged path analyses were conducted to test the directionality of the effects, and gender moderation was assessed by relying on multi-group analyses. The analyses revealed mainly reciprocal associations for each form of aggression, suggesting that boys, as well as girls, can both gain and maintain their status by spreading rumors about their peers, just as they do by physically fighting and pushing others in urban middle schools. The implications of the findings for interventions are discussed.

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