Electronic Thesis and Dissertation Repository


Doctor of Philosophy




Dr. Peter Jaffe


This explanatory mixed-methods, phenomenological study investigated how relationally aggressive females perceive and experience their social world. The first, quantitative phase of the study included 237 students (85 males, 152 females) in grades 6 to grade 8 from four different schools. All students completed the quantitative measures of the study; a peer nomination scale of relational aggression, the Basic Empathy Scale (Joliffe & Farrington, 2006), and a self-concept measure, the Self-Description Questionnaire Short Form (Marsh et al., 2005). Female students whose mean relational aggression score was greater than 1 SD about the class mean, and received votes from more than 30% of the class were identified as relationally aggressive. The second qualitative phase of the study included interviews with 18 females identified as relationally aggressive. To triangulate the data, seven of the students’ teachers were also interviewed. The theoretical framework for this study included resource control theory and symbolic interactionism. The results revealed the complexity of girls’ social environment; in particular the powerful social arena of drama. The results further found the girls’ highly competitive nature that stretched from their social relationships to their extracurricular activities and academics. Most participants had a very positive self-concept and self-esteem, and reported respectful relationships with parents and teachers. However, some teachers raised suspicions around the authenticity of that respect. The findings indicate the need to understand the complex social world of relationally aggressive adolescent girls and the powerful and influential force of drama. Implications of the study’s findings for anti-bullying interventions are discussed.