Publication Date


Document Type


First Advisor

Malecki, Christine K.

Degree Name

M.A. (Master of Arts)

Legacy Department

Department of Psychology


Interpersonal relations in children--Middle West; Aggressiveness in children--Middle West; Empathy in children--Middle West; Academic achievement--Psychological aspects


Rough and tumble play, the playful form of physical aggression, has been shown to be related to a number of positive skills, abilities, and outcomes. As relational aggression is kin to physical aggression, it follows that there would be a playful version of relational aggression. This construct has been deemed playful relational behavior and is an area ripe for exploration. The current study focused on the role that empathy plays in students' perception of, and engagement in, playful and aggressive forms of relational behaviors. Twenty teachers and 389 fifth grade students from two school districts in the Midwest completed the Social Skills Improvement System (SSIS) rating scale (to assess empathy), the Children's Social Behavior Scale (to assess engagement in relational aggression and playful relational behavior), and watched and rated a series of video clips displaying a variety of playful and aggressive relational behaviors. Results indicated that higher levels of empathy are related to lower levels of engagement in both aggressive and playful relational behaviors, weak to moderate correlations between empathy and perceptions of relational aggression and playful relational behavior were uncovered, and that academic achievement may only moderate the associations between teacher-reported level of student empathy and engagement in relational behaviors.


Advisors: Christine K. Malecki; Amy E. Luckner.||Committee members: Brad Sagarin.||Includes bibliographical references.


ix, 128 pages




Northern Illinois University

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