"Words will always hurt me" : South African university students' experiences of female relational aggression.
This study explored a non-physical, covert form of aggression known as Relational Aggression (RA) from the perspective of young adult women. The aim of the study was to explore how young adult women defined and understood RA. It also aimed to provide a description of their personal experiences with RA. A qualitative research design, located within a constructivist grounded theory framework, was used to guide the study. Initial data was collected in the form of semi-structured interviews with 13 female university students between the ages of 18 and 25 from Durban, SouthAfrica. After tentative explanations and categories had been developed, theoretical sampling was conducted to test these interpretations. The theoretical sampling process involved semi-structured interviews with 3 additional female university students between the ages of 18-25. The final results of the analysis resulted in the emergence of four core categories and fivesub-categories. In accordance with previous research on aggression, the results suggested that RA was pervasive and normative amongst young adult women. It was associated with challenges in female friendships, which were complicated by issues of jealousy and competition, as well as the struggle to attain popularity and an idealised/stereotypical image. The findings highlighted the serious nature of RA and the impact it had on the lives of young women. The findings also illustrated the need for further research on this topic in order to raise awareness and to devise effective ways of dealing with it.
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