Aggression is a serious problem in American schools. According to psychologists, aggression is any behavior that is meant to harm or injure others (Horn, 2007). Aggression can be examined more intensely during early adolescence, when youngsters are in middle school or high school (National Center for Educational Statistics, 1995). Many acts of aggression are very visible and witnessed live on TV or in front of eyewitnesses, however, there are other acts of aggression that are less visible, overlooked, and undocumented (Olweus, 1979).
Aggressive behavior can appear in many forms, such as hitting, pushing, biting, pinching, kicking, spitting, or hair-pulling. Aggression can even appear in indirect forms, such as bullying, teasing, ignoring or defying rules or instructions, spreading rumors, excluding others, name-calling, or destroying objects (Horn, 2007). Many of these forms of aggression are seen in the school settings. The undocumented cases of aggression are very important, because they normally predict more serious problems for the future (Olweus, 1979). Researchers can identify victims of aggression by identifying aggressors. Victims of aggression are at risk for a variety of school related and psychosocial problems (Pellegrini, 1998).
It is very difficult to collect information on aggressors and the targets of aggression in schools. Aggressive acts are usually committed in places where there are few or no adult witnesses. Also, aggressive acts occur at low frequencies relative to all other behaviors observed during the school day (Pellegrini, 1988). For that reason, these acts are very difficult to observe directly. Because it is so hard to pinpoint aggression in schools, researchers normally use some form of informant rating of students (Caspi, 1998), which include students' self-reports, peer ratings and nominations, and teacher questionnaires. Through the extensive experience that informants have with students, researchers can usually identify aggressive youngsters with some level of accuracy (Dodge & Coie, 1987).
Children have normative beliefs when it comes to aggressive behavior. Normative beliefs are self-regulating beliefs about the appropriateness of social behaviors. Normative beliefs serve to regulate corresponding actions by prescribing a range of allowable and prohibited behaviors (Huesmann, 1997). A wide range of interpersonal actions fall under this type of normative regulation. These actions are social conventional behaviors such as the correct ways of addressing strangers, to moral behaviors involving harm to others (Guerra, Nucci, & Huesmann, 1994).
Some normative beliefs may be situation specific or general. An example of a situation-specific normative belief is “It's okay to hit others if they hit you first.” An example of a general belief is “It's okay to hit others.” Hence normative beliefs are defined as personal cognitive principles about the acceptability of a behavior (Huesmann, 1997). Even though normative...