Daly is an associate professor in the College of Arts and Sciences, where he heads the Department of Psychological and Brain Sciences.
A recent study of relational aggression — or attempts to damage a person’s social status through shunning or rumor spreading — may explain why teachers sometimes miss signs of bullying, even when it’s apparent to students.
In the study, researchers from the Department of Psychological and Brain Sciences in the College of Arts and Sciences, along with colleagues from the Center for Violence Prevention at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP), observed problematic behaviors in third- through fifth-grade classrooms in Philadelphia.
They evaluated students’ academic competence, prosocial behavior, popularity and gender and then determined the contribution of each variable to the probability of a student being identified as relationally aggressive by a teacher and/or peers.
Ten percent of students were identified as relationally aggressive by their peers, but not by their teacher.
Chandler Puhy, a former doctoral student, wrote the study with Associate Professor Brian Daly and two co-authors affiliated with CHOP, Stephen Leff and Tracy E. Waasdorp.
Students with higher academic competence were more likely to be identified as relationally aggressive by their peers, but not by their teacher, and female students were more likely to be identified as relationally aggressive by both their teacher and peers.
The researchers theorized that academic competence could be tied to greater executive functioning — like planning and insight — which could contribute to aggressive behaviors occurring in a more covert manner. Or, alternatively, these students may receive less monitoring from teachers given their on-task behavior, resulting in fewer opportunities for teachers to observe relational aggression.
Their findings, which were published in School Mental Health, could help educators more effectively intervene for those at risk of depression, anxiety, physical complaints and conduct problems that result from aggression.