Debra J. Pepler, LaMarsh Centre for Research on Violence and Conflict Resolution,

York University, and The Hospital for Sick Children

Peer Group Dynamics and Children's Aggression


In considering the development of children's aggressive behaviour problems, it is essential to examine the role of peers. Our observations and surveys related to aggression and bullying indicate that peers are not only present when aggression unfolds, but they play a significant role in promoting or discouraging aggressive interactions. In this presentation, I will highlight our research on the dynamics within the peer group that support "deviancy training", as well as those that counteract the "culture of aggression" among children and youth. I will consider how these peer group dynamics serve to support antisocial youth along a deviant trajectory into adolescence. By understanding these processes within a developmental framework, we can identify them as they unfold. Interventions at the level of the peer group can be effected to reduce negative peer group dynamics and to promote positive dynamics, thereby counteracting the culture of aggression among peers.