Should relational aggression be included in DSM-V?

Kate Keenan*, Claire Coyne, Benjamin B. Lahey

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

61 Scopus citations


OBJECTIVE: Relational aggression was introduced more than a decade ago as a female-typical form of aggression and has become widely used in developmental psychopathology research. In considering whether relational aggression should be included in DSM-V disruptive behavior disorders, we provide data on the reliability and validity of relational aggression when reported by the informants most commonly used to generate clinical diagnoses (parents and youth), the degree of overlap between relational aggression and DSM-IV oppositional defiant disorder (ODD) and conduct disorder (CD), and the amount of variance in impairment explained by relational aggression controlling for ODD and CD. METHOD: Data were collected on 9- to 17-year-old girls and boys participating in the population-based Georgia Health and Behavior Study. RESULTS: Reliability and validity of youth and parent reports were adequate. Relational aggression was moderately correlated with symptoms of ODD and CD, and substantial overlap was observed between high levels of relational aggression and meeting symptom criteria for ODD or CD. Relational aggression explained a small but significant amount of unique variance in impairment, controlling for ODD and CD symptoms. At clinically significant levels of impairment, however, there was no additional variance explained by relational aggression. CONCLUSIONS: Some additional information about girls' and boys' functioning is gained by assessing relational aggression using parents and youth as informants, but perhaps not a sufficient amount to warrant inclusion in the nomenclature. Copyright 2008

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)86-93
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2008


  • Aggression
  • DSM-V
  • Nosology
  • Sex differences

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Psychiatry and Mental health
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology


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