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Peer aggression among children and youth: Defining constructs and identifying programming

APA Citation:

Frye-Cox, N., Farnsworth, M., O’Neal, C. W., Lucier-Greer, M. (2020). Peer aggression among children and youth: Defining constructs and identifying programming. Auburn, AL: Military REACH

Abstract Created by REACH:

The Office of the Secretary of Defense (OSD) Family Advocacy Program (FAP) requested a comprehensive literature review to be conducted on peer aggression with specific emphasis placed on clearly defining the topic while also identifying contemporary research on primary and secondary prevention strategies, as well as clinical interventions that are promising at mitigating peer aggression. Peer aggression can be defined as any behavior that is intended to harm another person (e.g., David-Ferdon et al., 2016; DeWall et al., 2012; Dodge et al., 2006). To help distinguish peer aggression from other constructs, specific attention is paid to differentiating between motives, modes, and types of peer aggression. In addition, peer aggression is distinguished from similar constructs of peer control, juvenile delinquency, and child abuse and neglect. The substantial efforts to clarify the construct of peer aggression have been matched by researchers attempting to prevent and reduce peer aggression and to mitigate immediate and long-term consequences stemming from peer aggression. Many of these efforts utilize either primary prevention strategies, secondary prevention strategies, or clinical interventions. Primary prevention programs may help change general attitudes about peer aggression and promote positive relationships within a given community. Secondary strategies may be most effective at managing peer aggression when parents, teachers, and others in a community are supported in their efforts to identify students at-risk for peer aggression and peer victimization. Clinical interventions are directed specifically at youth who have engaged in peer aggression with attention devoted toward improving relationships with parents and enhancing youth’s cognitive and socioemotional skills. Although each level of intervention can yield positive outcomes (e.g., reduction in aggressive behaviors, improved relationships with peers and adults), the best outcomes typically result from a coordinated effort between all three strategies (e.g., David-Ferdon et al., 2016; Espelage & Swearer, 2008). Importantly, it is necessary to match the strategy employed with the needs of the situation, as consideration must be given to age of youth, the level of implementation (i.e., prevention or intervention), as well as the organizational resources available.


Mental health

Military Affiliation:

Active Duty

Subject Affiliation:

Military families
Child of a service member or veteran
Military non-medical service providers


Childhood (birth - 12 yrs)
Preschool age (2 -5 yrs)
School age (6 - 12 yrs)
Adolescence (13 - 17 yrs)


Review of Literature


Frye-Cox, Nick, Farnsworth, Meredith, O'Neal, Catherine, Lucier-Greer, Mallory

Publisher/Sponsoring Organization:

Military REACH

Publication Type:

REACH Publication

Author Affiliation:

Department of Human Development and Family Studies, Auburn University, NFC
Department of Human Development and Family Science, University of Georgia, MF
Department of Human Development and Family Studies, Auburn University, MLG
Department of Human Development and Family Science, University of Georgia, CWO


peer aggression, FAP, clinical intervention, prevention

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REACH Publication Type:

Research Report


This product was developed as a result of a partnership funded by the Department of Defense (DoD) between the DoD’s Office of Military Family Readiness Policy and the U.S. Department of Agriculture/National Institute of Food and Agriculture (USDA/NIFA) through a grant/cooperative agreement with Auburn University. USDA/NIFA Award No. 2017-48710-27339, Principal Investigator, Mallory Lucier-Greer.

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