Children's evaluations of provocation between peers


The present study examined children's evaluations of potentially conflictual situations between peers. Eight- and 11-year-olds evaluated two hypothetical target children in three scenarios which differed as to the intent of a provocative act (Accidental, Ambiguous, Hostile). In addition to grade and sex, relationship between targets was manipulated as a between-subjects variable with targets portrayed as either Best Friends Acquaintances, or Enemies. Children evaluated target; in terms of attributions of intentions, behavior response, affective state of targets, and mutual liking between targets. Results indicated that aggressor's intentions and victim's behavior response were evaluated as positive for the Accidental scenario and as negative for the Hostile scenario regardless of target relationship. When aggressor's intentions were unclear (e.g., Ambiguous), interactions between Best Friends and interactions between Acquaintances were evaluated as positive while interactions between Enemies were perceived as negative. Further, while all children predicted a negative response by the victim during the Hostile situation, younger children predicted the victim's response would be less negative than did older children. Children reported Best Friends and Acquaintances as liking each other more before the provocation situation started than after it occurred while liking between Enemies remained unchanged, thus indicating a belief that provocations may hurt a positive or neutral relationship. Targets were perceived to be in negative affective states during the Accidental and Ambiguous scenarios and the aggressor was perceived to be in a neutral affective state during the Hostile scenario. Results are discussed in terms of previous research on response to provocation and implications for research on children's peer conflicts. Aggr. Behav. 23:417-431,1997. © 1997 Wiley-Liss, Inc.

Publication Title

Aggressive Behavior