Reliance on experiential avoidance in the context of relational aggression: Links to internalizing and externalizing problems and dysphoric mood among urban, minority adolescent girls

Sarah E. Shea and Lisa W. Coyne


A large body of research has linked relational aggression (RA) to indices of psychosocial and academic maladjustment. Recent work suggests that urban, minority adolescent girls who experience peer aggression are at particularly high risk for negative outcomes, including internalizing and externalizing behavior problems, and yet this population has been underrepresented in the literature. Despite the high prevalence of RA, only a small portion of adolescents experience chronic victimization and/or develop serious, lasting effects. Identifying factors which confer vulnerability in the context of RA may have important implications for intervention and prevention. The present study theorized that heavy reliance on experiential avoidance (EA) would be associated with history of RA victimization, and would predict internalizing problems. We also hypothesized that self-reported EA would be positively related to sadness in adolescents who experienced negative mood following an in vivo laboratory-based social exclusion experience. Participants included 58 female adolescents (aged 11–14 years) recruited from urban schools and community centers. Results supported our hypotheses. EA was associated with history of RA victimization, and predicted internalizing and externalizing symptoms, even when accounting for history of RA victimization. EA was also a significant predictor of more negative mood following a social exclusion experience, even when accounting for baseline mood. Implications and recommendations for future research and intervention are discussed.

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