Regional differences in relational aggression: The role of culture

Katherine Amanda Czar

Abstract

It is becoming increasingly clear that relational aggression has just as much potential to cause harm as overt verbal and physical aggression. Though the literature base on relational aggression is growing, far fewer studies have been conducted with late adolescents and adults as compared with children and early adolescents. Moreover, the role of culture in relational aggression has received limited attention. The current study aimed to examine the potential impact of one aspect of culture on relational aggression by focusing on North-South regional differences in the United States. Differing norms and expectations for social behavior between Northern and Southern U.S. may translate into differences in aggressive behavior. Two-hundred and eighty-eight undergraduate students from a Southern university and 217 students from a university in the Northeast completed self-report measures of relational aggression, overt aggression, normative beliefs about relational aggression, and gender role attitudes online. Results indicated that Southern participants reported greater levels of both general/peer and romantic relational aggression compared to the Northern sample. Southerners also reported more traditional gender role attitudes compared to Northerners. There was not a significant difference between Northern and Southern participants on normative beliefs about relational aggression. Traditional gender role attitudes were positively correlated with both general/peer and romantic relational aggression. Finally, gender role attitudes were a significant predictor of general/peer relational aggression but not of relational aggression in romantic contexts.