Social competence as a moderator of the aggression-victimization link in elementary school children




Sklar, Naomi

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Childhood aggression is a pervasive problem that has serious consequences for peer relationships. The relation between aggression and peer victimization has been studied extensively. Research suggests that these two constructs become intertwined in a maladaptive cycle as children age. Yet, not all aggressive children are victimized by their peers nor does aggression have the same consequences for all children. The current study seeks to investigate under what circumstances aggression leads to peer victimization and suggests that social competence is a critical moderator of this relationship. Previous research has found that levels of social competence vary among aggressive children. However, the consequences of aggression (i.e., peer victimization) at varying levels of social competence has not been previously studied. In a sample of 369 children in grades 2 through 5, the short-term longitudinal relations between physical aggression and peer victimization, and the moderating effects of social competence were examined over two time points. Social competence moderated the relation between aggression and peer victimization: At low levels of social competence, the relation between aggression and peer victimization was not significant. At moderate and high levels of social competence, a relation between aggression and peer victimization was significant. Findings demonstrate the importance of fostering social competence and prosocial conflict resolution strategies among aggressive children and intervening early in development in order to prevent the occurrence and consequences of childhood aggression.



aggression, social competence, peer victimization, children