Student Verbal Aggression Toward Teachers: How Do Behavioral Patterns Unfold?

Susan D. McMahon*, Jacqueline O. Davis, Eric Peist, Kailyn Bare, Dorothy L. Espelage, Andrew Martinez, Eric M. Anderman, Linda A. Reddy

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

7 Scopus citations


Objective: The prevalence of verbal aggression in schools is well documented; however, most of this research focuses on verbal aggression between students. Examination of student verbal aggression toward teachers is limited. This qualitative investigation explores events that frequently precede and follow student verbal aggression toward teachers using an antecedent-behavior-consequence (A-B-C) framework. Method: The sample includes 98 prekindergarten through 12th-grade teachers who experienced verbal aggression from a student and identified an antecedent and consequence of the incident. Conventional content analysis was conducted to identify common types of verbal aggression, antecedents, consequences, and A-B-C patterns among teacher-directed verbal aggression incidents perpetrated by students. Results: Findings reveal threats were the most common type of verbal aggression and varied across developmental level, with high school teachers reporting more threats than elementary teachers. In terms of A-B-C patterns, student verbal aggression was precipitated by disciplinary action; the aggression then led to the student's removal from the classroom or school, school staff becoming involved, or a positive outcome (e.g., an apology or a service provision). Teacher directives (e.g., requesting a student to sit down or complete classwork) led to verbal aggression, resulting in administrative inaction. Finally, academic performance-related situations (e.g., grades) led to verbal aggression followed by student removal. Conclusions: Common antecedents, consequences, and patterns suggest strategies for preventing and addressing verbal aggression, such as training for teachers and administrators, effective classroom rules, facilitation of student engagement, and improved discipline policies and practices.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalPsychology of Violence
StateAccepted/In press - 2019


  • Antecedents
  • Consequences
  • Teacher victimization
  • Verbal aggression
  • Violence

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Psychology
  • Health(social science)
  • Applied Psychology


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