When Does Rejection Trigger Aggression? A Multi-method Examination of the Multimotive Model, Mississippi, 2016-2019 (ICPSR 37616)

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H. Colleen Sinclair, Mississippi State University


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This study was a multi year examination of high school students in Mississippi and their experiences with social rejection, such as physical, social, verbal, or cyber peer victimization, including bullying. A one time national sample was also surveyed to compare students nationally against these local students. Additional methods were incorporated to enhance understanding of aggression through vignettes, daily diaries, and an experimental cyberball game.

Sinclair, H. Colleen. When Does Rejection Trigger Aggression? A Multi-method Examination of the Multimotive Model, Mississippi, 2016-2019. Inter-university Consortium for Political and Social Research [distributor], 2023-12-14. https://doi.org/10.3886/ICPSR37616.v1

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United States Department of Justice. Office of Justice Programs. National Institute of Justice (2015-CK-BX-0004)

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Inter-university Consortium for Political and Social Research

2016 (Year 1), 2017 (Year 2), 2018 (Year 3)
2018-03-07 -- 2016-03-10 (School Safety Survey Year 1), 2017-10-25 -- 2017-11-10 (School Safety Survey Year 2), 2018-10-03 -- 2018-12-13 (School Safety Survey Year 3), 2016-11-08 -- 2016-11-30 (Perceived Groupness Year 1), 2018-03-26 -- 2018-05-03 (Perceived Groupness Year 2), 2019-01-16 -- 2019-02-05 (Perceived Groupness Year 3), 2016-04-25 -- 2016-05-06 (Daily Diary Year 1), 2017-02-27 -- 2017-03-10 (Daily Diary Year 2), 2018-04-09 -- 2018-04-20 (Daily Diary Year 3), 2018-11 -- 2019-09 (Cyberball)

The purpose of this research was to identify buffers and predictors of behavioral responding (i.e., prosocial, asocial, or antisocial responses) following experience with rejection. The primary aim of the current set of projects was to test a newer, and largely untested, theory regarding whether experiencing social rejection led to antisocial behavior as opposed to prosocial or asocial responses.

This was a 3-year longitudinal survey design of high school students with additional experimental designs of vignettes on perceived groupness and a daily diary design for a sub-sample of students asking open-ended questions about experiences with peer rejection that day.

The vignette design is based on buffers and predictors that employed a mixed-factorial design. Each student received 4 scenarios describing a physical, verbal, relational, or cyber victimization of a student. Thus, type of victimization was a within-subjects variable. Between-subjects the scenarios varied regarding:

  • Cost -the incident was portrayed as high cost (publicly humiliating) or low cost (occurring in private),
  • Group Affiliation -the group identity of the perpetrator was either an ingroup member (same social group as the victim), outgroup member (different social group from the victim), or no group identity was specified,
  • Alienation -whether the incident was described as making the student feel like an outcast (alienated vs. not), and
  • Availability of Alternatives - whether the victim was portrayed as having alternative relationships available to them (none vs. a supportive friend).

After reading the scenarios, participants were asked what they thought would happen and how they would respond.

Cyberball was originally developed by Dr. Kipling Williams (see Hartgerink et al., 2015 for review) to experimentally simulate exclusion by using a videogame wherein participants partake in an online balltossing videogame with alleged other players (who are in fact fake participants). Participants are randomly assigned to either receive the ball consistently throughout the game (inclusion) or to not receive the ball (exclusion) after a few initial tosses.

An annual survey of high school students from a local high school who with parental consent - actively chose to participate in the school safety survey. Approximately half of the sample each year reported experiencing either physical, verbal, relational, or cyber victimization within the prior three months and thus were asked further questions about their experiences.

In Year 4 a Qualtrics national panel sample was selected to supplement the local data to determine whether the patterns found were unique to the local sample or generalized to a broader sample. The local samples were predominantly African American so the Qualtrics sample was purposefully oversampled for African American youth. Also, a screening for victimization experiences was conducted, and only included those who had experienced a recent incident of physical, verbal, cyber, or relational aggression and/or bullying. Thus, victimization questions were asked slightly differently in the Qualtrics survey.

Longitudinal: Panel

High school students attending one public-high school in Mississippi.


  • National Qualtrics Panel Survey (DS1) and School Safety (DS2 to DS4): Respondent's interactions with other students over the past 6 months and their experiences with physical, verbal, social, and cyber aggression.
  • Perceived Groupness (DS5 to DS7):- Random assignment to one of multiple vignettes on the topics of physical, verbal, social-relational, and cyber aggression. The vignettes differ on the number of perpetrators and group affiliation. Respondents then answer how they would respond based on domains of withdrawl, being anti-social, being pro-social, and harm to themselves.
  • Daily Diary (DS8 to DS10): Each year contains 10 diary days, 2 weeks from Monday to Friday, asking questions about whether the person was the target of any physical, verbal, social, or cyber aggression that day, the details of that event, and the person's feelings about what happened.
  • Cyberball Game (DS11): Respondent's experiences participating in the cyberball paradigm by which inclusion (e.g., receiving ball tosses) and exclusion and group/alone factors are experimentally manipulated.

Not applicable.

  • Social Alienation Scale (Jessor and Jessor, 1977)
  • Aggression Questionnaire (Buss and Perry, 1992)
  • Honor Ideology of Manhood (Barnes, Brown, and Osterman, 2012)
  • Self-Control Scale (Tangney, Baumeister, and Boone, 2004)
  • Vengeance Scale (Stuckless and Goranson, 1992)
  • RISC (Cross et al., 2000)
  • Narcissistic Personality (Ames et al., 2006)
  • Adapted Children's Social Behavioral Scale (Crick and Grotpeter, 1995)
  • Need to Belong (Leary, Kelly, Cottrell, and Schreindorfer, 2005)
  • Self-Regulation Failure (Tangney et al., 2004)
  • Evaluation of Social Groups Inventory (Sinclair, 2004)
  • Group Identity (Cameron, 2004)



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