Normative Beliefs Regarding Aggression in Emerging Adulthood


relational aggression, social aggression, indirect aggression, emerging adulthood


Few studies have examined the nature of aggression in emerging adulthood (ages 18–25), a unique developmental period wherein relationships become increasingly important and intimate. Consistent with a greater emphasis on relationships, relationally manipulative forms of aggression may be particularly salient during this time period. Based on content analysis of perceptions of 134 undergraduate students, this study documents a significant spectrum of normative aggressive behaviors among emerging adults. Participant responses were coded into categories reflective of current aggression research. Findings indicate that perceptions of salient aggressive strategies vary by gender of both the aggressor and the victim. For example, male aggression was most often described as being verbal or directly physical in nature, especially in same‐sex dyads. In contrast, female aggression was most often described as being indirectly relational, verbal, or non‐verbal (ignoring/avoiding) across dyads. However, direct relational aggression was also fairly prominent in perceptions of female aggression toward males.

Original Publication Citation

Nelson, D. A., *Springer, M. M., Nelson, L. J., & *Bean, N. H. (2008). Normative beliefs regarding aggression in emerging adulthood. Social Development, 17, 638-660.

Document Type

Peer-Reviewed Article

Publication Date


Permanent URL


Social Development




Family, Home, and Social Sciences


Family Life

University Standing at Time of Publication

Full Professor