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It's time to stop and listen : exploring adolescents' understandings and experiences of aggression Brown, Jonathan Edward


Throughout the extensive literature on aggression few attempts have been made to examine the experiences of aggression from the perspective of adolescents. The purpose of this dissertation was to understand how adolescents experience aggression. Specifically, this dissertation examined how adolescents (a) define aggression, (b) experience acceptable aggression, (c) associate bullying and aggression in general, and (d) understand intentionality in the context of aggression. A total of 11 focus groups were conducted with a purposive sample of 59 adolescents aged 12 to 18 years (M = 15.1). Data from these group discussions were thematically analyzed. Participants were found to produce definitions of aggression that were consistent with formal definitions. However, participants further grounded their conceptualizations of aggression in terms of anger and tone, which are not referenced in the most widely used formal definitions. Acceptable aggression was premised on the thematically derived construct of social positioning, which is a multifaceted index of social status and vulnerability to aggression within the social hierarchy. Social positioning was found to consist of four elements: (a) reputation agency, (b) chronological status, (c) social power, and (d) physical toughness. Participants described bullying as a function rather than a unique form of aggression. However, it was found to be distinct from the commonly accepted functions of aggression (i.e., instrumental and reactive) according to (a) the power differential between the perpetrator and target and (b) the repetitive nature of the behaviour. Based on these results, it was argued that the functions of aggression should be classified according to a trichotomy of instrumental, reactive, and bullying. In looking at intentionality, while participants had some similarities to previous research, they added that intentionality is comprised of further components such as performing the intended behaviour, obtaining the desired goal, and intensity. Intensity was not only found in the context of physical aggression, but also in nonphysical aggression in the degree to which the perpetrator manipulates the event. From these results, recommendations were also made on the future development of adolescent intervention strategies.

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