- Explaining the paradoxical rejection-aggression link: the mediating effects of hostile intent attributions, anger, and decreases in state self-esteem on peer rejection-induced aggression in youth
- Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin
- Volume | Issue number
- 37 | 7
- Pages (from-to)
- Document type
- Faculty of Social and Behavioural Sciences (FMG)
- Psychology Research Institute (PsyRes)
People are strongly motivated to feel accepted by others. Yet when faced with acute peer rejection they often aggress against the very peers they desire acceptance from, which may lead to further rejection. The present experiment tests three potential mediators of aggressive responses to acute peer rejection in the critical developmental stage of early adolescence. Participants (N = 185, M age = 11.5 years) completed personal profiles that were allegedly evaluated online by peers. After receiving negative or neutral peer feedback, participants could aggress against the same peers who had evaluated them. Rejected participants attributed more hostile intent to the peers, were angrier, showed a greater reduction in state self-esteem, and were more aggressive. Mediational analyses showed that hostile intent attributions mediated the acute peer rejection—aggression relationship, whereas increases in anger and decreases in state self-esteem did not. Thus, acute peer rejection evokes hostile intent attributions that, in turn, lead to aggressive reactions.
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