Overt and Relational Aggression among Hispanic and Caucasian Middle School Students Alysha N. Ramirez
Noel A. Card Abstract
(Department of Psychology)
(Division of Family Studies and Human Development)
The participants for this study were 146 sixth graders and 191 seventh graders from a local middle school in Tucson, AZ. In the spring of 2009 surveys were administered in the classrooms of the students. All surveys were confidential and administered in the same manner. Instructions for each survey were given vocally and visually prior to them beginning. Students were given an allotted time for each survey. The ethnicity of each student was measured using a demographic questionnaire where students were asked to check which ethnicity they considered themselves. The sixth grade consisted of 30.2% Hispanics and 52.3% Caucasians. The seventh graders were split into three different teams. In team one there were 32.1% Hispanics and 44.4% Caucasians. In team two there were 25% Hispanics and 57.9% Caucasians. In team three there were 26.3% Hispanics and 52.6% Caucasians. For the purpose of this study all other ethnicities will be considered “other” and not taken into account or analyzed due to the small number in these groups. The other measurement used for this study was the dyadic questionnaire. The dyadic was given in the form of a table that had the students’ names listed across the top and the items listed down the side. The students then matched up which students fit which item and checked the appropriate box. The students were given an allotted amount of time for this. Out of the dyadic items, item number 22 (“I hit or kick these kids”) was chosen to represent overt aggression and item number 7 (“I spread rumors about these kids”) was chosen to represent relational aggression. These were chosen since they are the most representative items for each type of aggression.
Background Possibly due to the sensitivity of this issue in present day society, there have not been many previous studies conducted on the role that ethnicity plays in adolescent aggression. The Arizona school system is made up of 41.6% Hispanic students and 45% Caucasian students (“Arizona Public School Statistics.”) Many of these schools, including the one surveyed for this study, contain a large number of both these races, interacting on a regular basis. Aggressive interactions can take place in numerous ways. Overt aggression includes physical aggression and relational aggression indicates that it is psychological aggression (Card et al 2008). Within indicates that the antagonism is taking place within the same race and between indicates that the aggression is taking place between two different races. In one previous study that utilized peer nomination forms, a measurement of rejection was taken, which is the most comparable measure to that of aggression. In this measure, it was found that fewer than half of the Caucasian and Hispanic students nominated their same ethnicity peers as being rejected (Bellmore et al 2007). This can be translated to the aggression is between races, not within. No previous research was found regarding overt versus relational aggression. The goal of this study is to delve deeper into previous work by looking at specific types of aggression and where the aggression is directed, specifically between Hispanic and Caucasian adolescents. The data will be valuable in finding if race plays a role in the occurrence of aggression in the school system in Arizona.
Proportion of peers targeted
Due to the increased diversity in the Arizona school systems, the role of ethnicity needs to be taken into account when looking at patterns of peer aggression among schoolchildren. The goal of this study is to expand on previous work by looking at specific types of aggression and whether the aggression is directed within or across ethnic groups. Overt aggression includes acts such as physical aggression, whereas relational aggression includes acts such as gossiping and rumor spreading. We examined these forms of aggression among Hispanic and Caucasian adolescents. Data was collected in a local middle school through the use of surveys and analyzed using a three-way ANOVA with ethnicity of aggressor, ethnicity of target , and form of aggression. The dependent variable was proportion of peers targeted for aggression. Analysis showed that there was no main effect; this is saying that Hispanics nor Caucasians are being more aggressive or victimized. This applies to both types of aggression. The three way interaction was significant. This showed that Hispanics aggress more overtly towards Caucasians, but more relationally against other Hispanics (p = .08). These trends might suggest differences in within versus across ethnicity aggression by overt and relational forms, suggesting that the role of ethnicity in the occurrence of aggression in schools is complex. These findings are valuable in illuminating the role of race in the occurrence of aggression in Arizona middle schools.
Proportions of peers targeted
0.0012 0.0010 0.0006 0.0005
0.0000 Overt to Hispanic Relational to Overt to Relational to peers Hispanic peers Caucasian peers Caucasian peers
Overt to Hispanic Relational to Overt to Relational to peers Hispanic peers Caucasian peers Caucasian peers
From these results, we see an interaction of target ethnicity X form among Hispanic aggressors (F(1,99) = 3.13, p = .08), such that these students enacted more overt aggression toward Caucasian than Hispanic peers (i.e., greater across-ethnicity overt aggression) but enacted more relational aggression toward Hispanic than Caucasian peers (i.e., greater within-ethnicity relational aggression). This target ethnicity X form interaction did not approach significance among Caucasian students (F(1, 177) = 0.05, ns), nor did Caucasian students direct their aggression disproportionately to Hispanic or White Targets (F(1, 177) = 0.01 ns). There was a nonsignificant trend toward Caucasian students using more relational than overt aggression (F(1,177) = 2.64, p = .11.
Conclusions and Implications Results Data were analyzed as a three-way ANOVA with ethnicity of aggressor (Hispanic and Caucasian), ethnicity of target (Hispanic and Caucasian), and form of aggression (overt versus relational) as factors. The dependent variable was proportion of peers targeted for aggression. Before considering the interactions of interest, it is worth noting the absence of main effects. In other words, there was no evidence of Hispanic or Caucasian students being more aggressive or more victimized, or of students using overt or relational aggression more frequently. The three way interaction was significant, F(1,176) = 3.87, p < .05. To interpret this interaction, we separated Hispanic and Caucasian aggressors, considering the target ethnicity X form interaction for each group. These results are summarized in following figures:
The current study varies from previous research in the fact overt and relational aggression was analyzed together to see whether it was occurring within or between Hispanics and Whites. Returning to our goal of looking at which direction each type of aggression is directed it can be seen that in overt aggression that the direction of Hispanics aggressing more towards White targets is statistically significant even though the fact that Hispanics are more overtly aggressive on average is not significant. In relational aggression it is statistically significant that Hispanics relationally aggress towards other Hispanic targets, but it is not significant that Hispanics also aggress more relationally then Whites. There were no significant findings in the Caucasian group. Our findings show that race plays a role in adolescents’ enactment of aggression. Although not all statistically significant we found trends that might suggest differences in within versus across race aggression by overt and relational forms, suggesting that the role of race in the occurrence of aggression in schools is complex.
Acknowledgements The authors acknowledge funding from the Frances McClelland Institute for Children, Youth, and Families.