A Penchant For Revenge Can Make It Tough To Find A Friend

March 04, 1999

CHAMPAIGN, Ill. -- Making friends is a natural thing for many kids. For others, it's not.

And for a small but significant minority, the way they handle even minor conflicts within a friendship is a strong predictor that their friendships will be few, say two University of Illinois researchers.

For these kids, revenge is often a very strong goal in their reaction to even everyday conflicts with kids they claim as friends, according to a study by Amanda Rose, a doctoral candidate in psychology, and Steven Asher, a professor of educational psychology and of psychology. Finding out why, they say, could be a key to helping these kids find the friendships they're missing and avoid problems later in life.

In a paper published in the January issue of the journal Developmental Psychology, Rose and Asher described research involving 696 fourth- and fifth-graders in two Midwestern school districts. In a survey administered in the classroom, each child was asked to name his or her best friend and to answer questions related to the quality of that friendship.

They also were asked how likely it was that they would react in each of various ways to 30 hypothetical situations involving minor conflicts with a friend -- like a disagreement over who should pick a game to play, or whether to let the friend help finish a puzzle.

In evaluating the results of the study, Rose said, she and Asher were struck by the tendency toward revenge in about 6 percent of the subjects. "We were surprised at the degree to which some children would say in response to every one of these really mild disagreements that they wanted to get back at their friend." And in trying to accomplish that goal, they often indicated that they would respond in a very hostile way, such as threatening to end the friendship.

"The reason this leapt out at us is because we worry about these children," Rose said. "We know, from our study, that these children have poorer friendships. But we also have to wonder what's going to become of them."

"Of all the goals we measured that kids might have when a conflict arises," Asher said, "the goal that was most predictive of what their friendship situation was like in real life was this goal of seeking to get back at the other person you have to raise the question of what would lead a child to respond to a fairly normative, everyday conflict as if it were a major betrayal."

Asher has been researching children's peer relationships for 25 years, through studies with students and colleagues on peer acceptance, social skills training, loneliness and friendship. The work with Rose grew out of a list of 10 "social tasks of friendship" he and research colleagues Jeffrey Parker and Diane Walker proposed several years ago. Other recent studies by Asher and his students also point to the potentially damaging effect that seeking revenge has on children's peer relationships.
-end-


University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

Related Psychology Articles from Brightsurf:

More than one cognition: A call for change in the field of comparative psychology
In a paper published in the Journal of Intelligence, researchers argue that cognitive studies in comparative psychology often wrongly take an anthropocentric approach, resulting in an over-valuation of human-like abilities and the assumption that cognitive skills cluster in animals as they do in humans.

Psychology research: Antivaxxers actually think differently than other people
As vaccine skepticism has become increasingly widespread, two researchers in the Texas Tech University Department of Psychological Sciences have suggested a possible explanation.

In court, far-reaching psychology tests are unquestioned
Psychological tests are important instruments used in courts to aid legal decisions that profoundly affect people's lives.

Psychology program for refugee children improves wellbeing
A positive psychology program created by researchers at Queen Mary University of London focuses on promoting wellbeing in refugee children.

Psychology can help prevent deadly childhood accidents
Injuries have overtaken infectious disease as the leading cause of death for children worldwide, and psychologists have the research needed to help predict and prevent deadly childhood mishaps, according to a presentation at the annual convention of the American Psychological Association.

Raising the standard for psychology research
Researchers from Stanford University, Arizona State University, and Dartmouth College used Texas Advanced Computing Center supercomputers to apply more rigorous statistical methods to psychological studies of self-regulation.

Psychology: Robot saved, people take the hit
To what extent are people prepared to show consideration for robots?

Researchers help to bridge the gap between psychology and gamification
A multi-disciplinary research team is bridging the gap between psychology and gamification that could significantly impact learning efforts in user experience design, healthcare, and government.

Virtual reality at the service of psychology
Our environment is composed according to certain rules and characteristics which are so obvious to us that we are scarcely aware of them.

Modeling human psychology
A human being's psychological make-up depends on an array of emotional and motivational parameters.

Read More: Psychology News and Psychology Current Events
Brightsurf.com is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.