Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Social Work


School of Social Work

First Reader/Committee Chair

Chang, Janet



The purpose of this study is to ascertain the knowledge and use of relational aggression in a college population, reasons for use if occurring, and perceptions on the effectiveness of relational aggression to attain one’s social goals.

The methods used in the study were a self-administered survey questionnaire using a Likert scale to measure the results. This survey had an opening statement that gave a brief definition of relational aggression. The survey was administered at a Riverside County community college; the sample size was 42 students. Data analysis provided a percentage-based tabulation of those results.

The key findings were that more than half the students surveyed claimed they had no prior knowledge of relational aggression, and the vast majority of the students surveyed also claimed that they did not use relational aggression. Of those surveyed that admitted to the use of relational aggression: more than a third indicated they had other reasons for using it that they did not elaborate on, and more than 14% of the participants indicated they believed relational aggression was an effective method to use to achieve their goals. Interestingly, far more than half the participants also indicated that they would not continue to use relational aggression, yet more than a third indicated they would continue to use relational aggression. Another key finding was that more than half the participants – above 60% – indicated they believe that other students were using relational aggression.

The implications of the study are that relational aggression is used by students as a social tool of choice to achieve certain goals, and this is thoroughly in line with other research done on relational aggression in a college population. In addition, previous researchers determined that relational aggression in a college population was – at its simplest – a continuation of relational aggression behaviors carried on in high school. However, an additional unexpected implication growing out of the current study was that once the participants were made aware of what constituted relational aggression – through only the simple administration of a survey containing a brief definition – a significant amount of the participants claimed they would not use relational aggression in the future. Though additional research is certainly desirable – especially in the area of relational aggression use amongst college students – this researcher believes that the current study clearly indicates that relational aggression is being used in the college population and that simple psycho/social education intervention efforts could be effective in promoting a more prosocial stance towards the understanding and use of relational aggression as a social tool of choice amongst college students.