Date of Award

Spring 5-2014

Degree Type


Degree Name


Degree Program

Counselor Education


Educational Leadership, Counseling, and Foundations

Major Professor

Barbara Herlihy

Second Advisor

Marc P. Bonis

Third Advisor

Zarus E. P. Watson

Fourth Advisor

Christine Ebrahim


Relational aggression (RA) is a type of bullying in which the relationship is used as the agent of harm (Crick & Grotpeter, 1995). RA behaviors are intended to impair or ruin reputations, friendships, and feelings of inclusion in a peer group (Putallaz et al., 2007). Professional School Counselors (PSCs) are charged to be social justice advocates for students; RA is a social justice issue because the effects of RA bullying, victimization, and bullying/victimization lead to poor academic achievement. Recent literature suggests that PSCs do not perceive the effects of RA to be as serious as the effects of physical and verbal bullying; however, training can increase RA sensitivity and willingness to intervene (Jacobsen & Bauman, 2007). No studies have explored PSC training, PSC perceptions regarding RA, PSC perceived barriers to RA intervention, and PSC intervention strategies.

The purpose of this study was to examine PSC training for RA, PSC perceptions of RA as an issue with serious consequences for students, PSC perceived barriers to RA care, and the interventions PSCs currently use for RA. This study also examined if sex differences, grade level with which PSC worked, and school type in which PSC worked existed in PSC perceptions of RA as an issue with serious consequences for students. A substantial amount of PSCs surveyed strongly agreed (24.5%), agreed (39.8%) and somewhat agreed (26.8%; a cumulative of 91.2% of participants) that RA was an issue with serious consequences for students with whom they work. RA was recognized by PSCs as an issue with serious consequences for students with no significant differences by training, gender, and school type at which the PSC worked. Significant differences were found by school level with which the PSC worked. Several barriers to RA care were identified including lack of time, parents, issues with students reporting RA, and the confusion surrounding instances of RA. Several important RA interventions were identified including individual counseling with the victim and/or bully, using outside resources, group counseling, and focusing on school wide bullying interventions.

Implications for PSC practice and training were given in addition to implications for future research.


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Counseling Commons