Peer Emotion Socialization and the Development of Aggressive Behavior in Adolescence

Peers play a significant role in the development of aggressive behavior in children and adolescents by reinforcing and socializing anti-social behavior (Snyder et al., 2005). The socialization of emotional expressivity has also been identified as a strong influence on adolescent behavioral problems, including aggression (Garner, Dunsmore, & Southam-Gerrow, 2008). However, most emotion socialization research has focused on the role of parents, not friends. My honors thesis will examine if emotion socialization responses by best friends predicts the development of physical and social aggression in their friend over a 4-year period and whether this relation is mediated by the adolescents’ management of their anger and sadness.

Given that adolescence is characterized by a normative decrease in aggressive behavior, and as a time of increasing independence and time spent with peers, understanding the role of peers in facilitating or inhibiting this decrease in aggression is important, yet understudied (Cleverley, Szatmari, Vaillancourt, Boyle, & Lipman, 2012). This research is exciting and unique because there is very little research on the relationship between peer emotion socialization and aggressive behavior, let alone longitudinal research. Given that adolescents spend increasing amounts of time with peers, understanding how peer interactions relate to aggression has implications for school- and community-based interventions.