The co-development of relational aggression and disruptive behavior symptoms from late childhood through adolescence
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Description: Researchers have debated whether relational aggression is a developmentally-normative behavior or a sign of some underlying psychopathology. However, due to the dearth of longitudinal studies, we know little about how relational aggression and more severe forms of disruptive behavior co-develop. The present study examined bidirectional associations between relational aggression and two psychiatric disorders, Oppositional Defiant Disorder (ODD) and Conduct Disorder (CD), using data from a longitudinal study of 674 Mexican-origin youth followed from age 10 to 16. Results showed that individuals who engaged in relational aggression tended to increase over time in ODD and CD symptoms, and conversely, individuals exhibiting symptoms of ODD and CD tended to increase in relational aggression. These findings held for boys and girls, for youth born in Mexico and the U.S., and after controlling for physical aggression. Thus, relational aggression seems to be both a developmentally-normative behavior and a predictor of future mental health problems.