The Personality Context of Relational Aggression: A Five-Factor Model Profile Analysis

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Relational aggression (RAgg) is a form of behavior intended to damage the victim’s social status or interpersonal relationships through the use of purposeful interpersonal manipulation or social exclusion (Archer & Coyne, 2005). RAgg is impairing, stable, and largely defined by dysfunctional patterns of interpersonal interactions—all of which invokes comparisons to personality and, more specifically, personality pathology. Leveraging research using the Five Factor Model (FFM) in personality disorder (PD) work, the present study aims to understand the personality context of RAgg by applying this FFM profile approach in 2 ways: (a) by compiling a personality profile of RAgg based on a thorough review of the relevant literature and (b) by compiling a personality profile of RAgg based on expert ratings (N = 19). We then compared these profiles to each other and to existing personality profiles of Cluster B PDs to examine how RAgg fits into the personality space represented by Cluster B PDs. These analyses indicate that both FFM profiles of RAgg show substantial overlap with the FFM profile of narcissistic PD. The present study has important implications for bridging disjointed domains of research on personality pathology and RAgg and underscores the relevance of RAgg for early emergence of PD characteristics.

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