U.S. flag

An official website of the United States government, Department of Justice.

When does Rejection Trigger Aggression? A Multi-method Examination of the Multimotive Model

Award Information

Award #
Funding Category
Awardee County
Congressional District
Funding First Awarded
Total funding (to date)

Description of original award (Fiscal Year 2015, $1,619,644)

As many as one in four youth experience aggression from schoolmates (Zimmer-Gembeck et al., 2013), with recent federal data indicating increases in crime and violence towards both students and teachers in U.S. schools (Rogers et al., 2014). Significant research supports that social rejection (e.g., bullying, cyberbullying, or romantic rejection) often precedes aggressive behavior (Kupersmidt et al., 1995; Leary et al., 2006; Vossekuil et al, 2000). Perceptions of having been unfairly outcast by their peers was a common theme in the diaries and websites left behind by the most violent of youth perpetrators (Dutton et al., 2013). This "outcast-lash-out effect" is not limited to school shooters (Reijntes et al., 201 0). Research has clearly documented that rejection can trigger an array of aggressive behavior. However, the question remains: as many adolescents face social rejection, what leads the few who decide to engage in acts of aggression towards their peers? Indeed, this question has been posed as a pressing matter for social science to address (Biackhart et al., 2006). In an attempt to address the questions of when and why rejection leads to aggression, Richman and Leary (2009) proposed a Multimotive Model. In this model they synthesized forty years of research on the rejection-aggression link to identify six key factors regarding how the individual interprets the rejection that could predict whether rejection triggers anti-social, pro-social, or asocial behavior. We propose a three year research project that integrates the Multimotive Model with research on individual differences in the outcast-lash out effect (Reijntes et al., 201 0) and research on intergroup conflict (Betts & Hinsz, 2013; Gaertner et al., 2008) to identify key predictors and buffers of aggression within high school students. Participants will come from Starkville High School, a rural school of 1 ,250 students. In 2013, Oktibbeha county schools were found to be underperforming; the resulting decision was to merge rural county schools with Starkville city schools. We believe that this merger provides us with a unique sample of students during a critical transition period where group-level interactions are particularly important. We plan to apply results from this study to improve individual well-being and intergroup relations via a school psychologist intern. To disseminate results, we take an open science approach. Specifically, we would distribute information widely via publishing in top scholarly journals, presenting at conferences oriented towards policy, and sharing research findings with schools directly and in blog form to be disseminated across multiple media platforms. This project contains a research and/or development component, as defined in applicable law. ca/ncf
Date Created: September 30, 2015