Just banter? Friendship, teasing and experimental aggression in adolescent peer networks

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Colleges, School and Institutes


Aggressive behaviour serves many useful social functions, yet can also have damaging consequences. In line with evidence showing adolescent development in social cognitive abilities, we hypothesized that the use of aggression would become more sophisticated with age. We investigated adolescent aggression towards peers using an experimental, hypothetical aggression paradigm, the hot sauce paradigm, in a school‐based social network setting. Participants (N = 162 aged 11–17, 98 male) indicated which strength of imaginary hot sauce they would allocate to each of their classmates. A Social Network Questionnaire quantified participants’ perceived dyadic social tie strength with each classmate, and the incidence of mutual or unilateral dyadic real‐world aggression (e.g. teasing). Participants allocated weaker hot sauce to peers with whom they reported strong, positive social ties and an absence of self‐reported unilateral real‐world aggression. With increasing cross‐sectional age, there was a decrease in the impact of social tie strength and an increase in the extent to which hot sauce allocation was predicted by self‐reported mutual real‐world aggression. This pattern of findings is consistent with young (vs. late) adolescent use of experimental, hypothetical Hot Sauce aggression to reflect real‐world animosity, while late adolescents’ behaviour is more subtle. These findings extend our understanding of the dyadic social context of adolescent aggressive behaviour using a novel experimental aggression paradigm.


Original languageEnglish
Article numbere12926
Number of pages8
JournalDevelopmental Science
Early online date24 Nov 2019
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 24 Nov 2019


  • Aggression, Development, Hot sauce paradigm, Peer relationships, Social network analysis, Social networks