Psychology Ph.D. Dissertations


Children's Social Goals and Retaliation Beliefs: A Comparison of Multiple Relationship Contexts

Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)



First Advisor

Dara Musher-Eizenman


Social information-processing models provide theoretical support for an association between social cognitive processes and aggressive behavior (Crick and Dodge, 1994; Huesmann, 1998). However, little empirical research has investigated how two social cognitive factors, social goals and beliefs about the acceptability of aggressive behavior, are related to one another and how they combine to influence child behavior. The present study examined the relationship among children’s social goals, retaliation beliefs, and behavior within and across best friend, sibling, and peer relationship contexts. Elementary and middle school children’s desire to pursue aggressive and prosocial goals and their approval of verbal, physical, and relational acts of retaliatory aggression were assessed across relationship context, type of aggression, age, and gender. In addition, path models were constructed to determine whether the relationship between children’s social goals and aggressive behavior is direct or mediated by children’s retaliation beliefs within multiple relationship contexts. The findings indicated that the relationship between social goals and aggressive behavior in relationships with best friends and peers operates differently than in relationships with siblings. Further, children’s social goal endorsements and beliefs regarding the appropriateness of aggressive behavior varied by age, type of aggression, and relationship context.