The media is littered with various portrayals of aggression. This aggression has been shown to influence the attitudes, beliefs, and subsequent behaviors of its viewers (Bushman & Anderson, 2001). Relational aggression is a newer concern for researchers and has become more prevalent in recent research. Relational aggression is prevalent in the lives of adolescents. Using social cognitive theory (Bandura 2002), information processing theory (Huesmann, 1988), and the general aggression model (Anderson & Bushman, 2002) to justify how adolescents might be developing these relationally aggressive behaviors, this study seeks to expand the literature by evaluating the portrayals of relational aggression in popular teen movies; a genre primarily watched by adolescents. This thesis is a content analysis of the top 30 grossing teen movies for the 1980s, 1990s, and 2000s for a total of 90 movies. The study examines three types of relational aggression—direct, indirect, and nonverbal. The following variables were coded for each act of relational aggression: initiator and victim age, gender, sociometrics, attractiveness, SES, and role, their relationship to each other, the context, humor, and consequence of the act of relational aggression. Analysis revealed that relational aggression is extremely prevalent (94.4%) in teen movies. Direct relational aggression is more prevalent in teen movies than both indirect and nonverbal relational aggression. Results indicate that females are portrayed as the primary initiators of relational aggression in teen films. Initiators and victims of relational aggression are primarily portrayed as characters of average attractiveness, average popularity, and as having middle class incomes. Acts of relational aggression are portrayed as not justified and not humorous. However, acts of relational aggression were portrayed as rewarded. No significant differences across decade were found for amount of relational aggression shown or for what type of relational aggression was portrayed. Results showed there were more male aggressors in the 1980s than expected and more female aggressors in the 2000s than expected.



College and Department

Fine Arts and Communications; Communications



Date Submitted


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relational aggression, teen movies, aggression, social aggression, indirect aggression, mean girls



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Communication Commons