The role of evaluator-victim relationships in children's evaluations of peer provocation


Second-, third-, fifth-, and sixth-grade children evaluated two hypothetical target peers in three provocation scenarios which differed as to the intent of a provocative act (Ambiguous, Accidental, Hostile). In addition to age and gender, evaluator-victim relationship was manipulated with children portrayed as being in a best friend, an acquaintance, or an enemy relationship with the victim, while the agent of the provocation was an unfamiliar peer. Evaluations were assessed in terms of attributions of aggressor's intentions, behavior response of the victim, evaluator's liking for victim, and evaluator's affect. Results indicated that older children evaluated aggressor's intentions and victim's behavior response more negatively than did younger children. Further, attributions of aggressor's intent significantly predicted the victim's subsequent behavioral response. Evaluator's affect was reported to be more negative when evaluating hostile provocation compared to accidental or ambiguous provocation and evaluators in acquaintance and enemy relationships with the victim reported liking the victim more after the provocation than before it occurred. Results are discussed in terms of the social relational and social situational influences on children's evaluations of peer interactions and the need to integrate these contextual factors in children's person perception research.

Publication Title

Social Development