Relational Aggression

Relational aggressionispsychological (social/emotional)aggressionbetween people in relationships. Relational aggression is a form of aggression where the group is used as a weapon to assault others and others' relationships. It uses lies, secrets, betrayals and other dishonest tactics to destroy or damage the relationships and social standing of others in the group. Also known ascovertbullying,social aggression,femalebullying,familybullyingorserialbullying, it is a covert form of aggression, used by both men and women in relationships. It is less well-known than physical forms of aggression and therefore much more difficult to detect. Often, the victim may not know the abuser is lying or gossiping about the victim, and the abuser may even pretend to befriend the victim.

Although modern understanding of relational aggression arose from the study of cliques of girls in school, and despite the fact that the term "femalebullying" is often used synonymously with "relational aggression", relational aggression is seen at times in women and men of all ages in spousal, familial, sexual, social, community, political, and religious settings.

Research seems to indicate differences in the types of relational aggression typical to children of different ages. Younger children are more likely to use direct forms of relational aggression, e.g., "You can't come to my birthday party." In contrast, older children are more likely to use more covert methods of harm, e.g., by making up demeaning stories about the victim and passing them around at school or other environments where social standing is important to the victim

Forms of relational abuse;

  • Gossip - Where the abuser tells others personal information about the victim.
  • Lies - Where the abuser lies about the victim to others.
  • Betrayal - Where the abuser breaks agreements with the victim.
  • Isolation - Where the abuser prevents the victim from socializing with the victim's friends.
  • Exclusion - Where the abuser prevents the victim from socializing with the abuser's friends.
  • Humiliation - Where the abuser humiliates or shames the victim in front of others.

These are some of the warning signs that may indicate abuse:

  • Physical harm of any kind
  • Attempts to control aspects of an individual's life (e.g., how one dresses, who one's friends are, what one says, etc.)
  • Humiliation
  • Coercing and/or threats of physical harm to an individual or those close to him/her.
  • Demands to know where an individual is at all times
  • Abuse of drugs or alcohol
  • Growing up witnessing an abusive relationship, and/or was abused as a child
  • An individual "rages" when they are hurt, shamed, or are in jeopardy of losing control in the relationship.
  • Online manipulation ie. abuser is poised to hurt victim using knowledge of technology

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