Graduation Year

Spring 2013

Document Type

Open Access Senior Thesis

Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts



Reader 1

Sheila Walker

Reader 2

Judith LeMaster

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Rights Information

© 2013 Catlin H. Dennis


Ethological and developmental studies have demonstrated the presence and importance of playful aggression for primates and children; additional studies suggest that playful aggression is also present in adulthood but is adapted and incorporated into relationships in different ways than it previously was in childhood. Little is known about young adults’ perceptions of playful aggression in romantic relationships, especially among same-sex couples. This study investigated perceptions of aggression when the sexual orientation of the couple, the severity of aggression, and the response of the recipient, who was receiving the aggression, were manipulated in a series of scenarios. Young adults, ages 18 to 25 years (N = 336) of both sexes rated a series of previously validated scales and then rated 24 scenarios. Data was analyzed using a series of repeated measures ANOVAs, paired samples t-tests, and independent t-tests. The data revealed that the response of the recipient had a significant effect on ratings of aggression such that in scenarios with a positive response (when the recipient smiled as opposed to frowning and walking away), behaviors were perceived as less aggressive. The gender of the aggressor also had a significant effect; scenarios with a male aggressor and female recipient were rated most aggressive out of the 24 scenarios. Additional results suggest that aggression in homosexual couples is perceived as less aggressive than comparable aggression in heterosexual couples. Results are discussed in the context of efforts to integrate research and develop a more cohesive understanding of playful aggression, specifically, how this aggression is perceived in adult romantic relationships.