Have you ever come across the term relational aggression? It is an insidious form of bullying that adults often tend to go unnoticed. It does not cause any physical harm, but relational aggression is intended to hurt someone’s social standing or personal relationship.  

Tweens and teens who get involved in relational aggression often bully people, try to control them, and manipulate them. This keeps happening under the radar of parents, other adults, and teachers.  

Some of the kids are masters of this art. They are so good at this that it is a matter of disbelief that they can ever hurt anyone. Sometimes, friends are the ones doing relational aggression to one another, and that makes it difficult for kids to speak up. 

According to an adolescent and pre-adolescent study in North America, girls are more into relational aggression than boys. And this happens more between the fifth and eighth grades. Even though emotional bullying and relational aggression are often referred to as the “mean girl” phenomenon, this is not just about one particular gender. 

Signs of relational aggression 

Even though the tactics of relational aggression are different for every person, there are some specific behaviors that you should look out for. 

  • Shaping others online or cyberbullying 
  • Backstabbing 
  • Forming cliques 
  • Making use of peer pressure to make others take part in bullying as well 
  • Making some rules for anyone who wants to be a part of their social group 
  • Intimidating others 
  • Engaging in gossip or spreading rumors 
  • Ostracizing others and excluding them 
  • Making fun of friends and other people for who they are, how they look, and how they dress 
  • Leaving mean and hurtful messages on other’s lockers, social media, and cell phones 

Why do kids indulge in relational aggression? 

One of the main reasons teens and tweens engage in relational aggression is to maintain and establish good status. There are various different factors responsible for promoting this kind of behavior, and that includes everything, starting with envy and ending with craving attention, it has. 


Teen bullies seem very excited about telling juicy stories or spreading negative information. Because of that, teens and tweens make their lives exciting by sharing secrets, spreading rumors, and creating drama. 

These teenagers like the attention they get from knowing the information others do not know. And they like to bring down the competition with the story that can even ruin the other person’s reputation. 

Peer Pressure 

Some kids even compromise with their principles or values when they wish to fit into a group or want to get accepted by that group. They can even spread gossip or rumors to feel like they are also a part of the group or get the popularity they crave for. 

Teens and tweens often take part in ostracizing or group bullying another person so that they get accepted by their friends. Most of the time, they engage in this kind of behavior out of fear. They think about losing their social position in the group. 

Low Self-Esteem 

Sometimes, relational aggression is also a coping mechanism for teenagers with low self-esteem. For example, a bully might be insecure about their appearance or clothes, so they attack others before they can attack them. 

Teens and tweens often bully others because they sometimes feel that if they bully others, they will feel good about themselves. 


Some of the teenagers just bully others because they are jealous of the other person. Often, they feel that the other person is smarter, popular, or better looking than them. 

They often try to make someone seem less desirable to other people, whatever the reason may be. Often they try name-calling, slut shaming, or spreading rumors to make the other person feel and look bad. 

Learned Behavior 

Sometimes, kids talk poorly and gossip about others because they have learned it from someone else. It could be a television program, or they have seen their parents, an older sibling, or a teacher. Kids often learn these things from real-life experiences.  

Emotional Effects Relational Aggression Has 

Parents and teachers often tend to underestimate the serious impact relational aggression can have on the victim. But it is quite a painful thing to experience for those who are on the receiving end. 

This is just as painful as any other kind of bullying. As a matter of fact, many kids have mentioned that relational bullying is just as hurtful as any kind of physical aggression. 

The only difference is that relational aggression does not leave behind any scars and wounds like physical violence. And that makes this one more insidious. In certain cases, emotional bully victims show a lot more signs of distress than victims who are bullied physically. 

Relational aggression victims often experience the following things: 

  • Academic struggles 
  • Eating disorders 
  • Depression 
  • Low self-esteem 
  • Suicidal ideation 
  • Felling of unattractiveness, inadequacy, and rejection 
  • Difficulty in forming healthy friendships 

If you see any of these things in your child, then take them seriously. Do not brush it off. Thinking this is just normal mood swings like any other teenager gets. Dig deep and try to figure out what is going on.  

Also, try to take the matter up with their pediatrician or take them to a counselor who specializes in bullying issues. Keep a check on your kid, and find out if they are getting any suicidal thoughts. If so, immediately consult a counselor. 

What can you do about relational aggression? 

Relational aggression is a painful and confusing experience for any member of the family. But there are many things that you can do to help your teen get through relational aggression.  

Ensure you are giving them enough time to talk to you. Be empathetic, patient, and encouraging. Tell your kid that whatever is happening is not at all their fault.  

Let them know that even though they do not have any control over how others behave or what they say about them, they can control their own reaction. Take them to counseling as it can help them express what they are feeling and learn some coping mechanisms. 

Also, get them checked by a pediatrician or the family doctor if they notice even a slight sign of depression. Or if you notice them expressing any thoughts of suicide. Never ignore these things. 


What is your reaction?

In Love
Not Sure
subhasree nag
Subhasree is a content writer who is passionate about traveling, writing, and reading books. In her leisure time, she is seen listening to music and watching web series. Writing along with music and dance are ways in which she expresses herself.

    You may also like

    Leave a reply

    Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *