Girls, Aggression, and Emotion Regulation

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Abstract

Many studies have demonstrated that boys are more aggressive than girls (see J. D. Coie & K. Dodge, 1997, for a review) and that emotion regulation difficulties are associated with problematic behaviors (N. Eisenberg & R. A. Fabes, 1999; M. Gilliom, D. S. Shaw, J. E. Beck, M. A. Schonberg, & J. L. Lukon, 2002). However, recent findings indicate that gender differences in aggressive behaviors disappear when assessments are broadened to include relational aggression—behaviors designed to harm the relationship goals of others by spreading rumors, gossiping, and eliciting peer rejection of others. Moreover, although difficulties regulating emotions have been reported for physically aggressive children, little research has examined these processes in relationally aggressive children. This article argues that investigation into the associations between emotion regulation and relational aggression is a critical direction for future research on the etiology and prevention of mental health problems in girls.

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