Date of Conferral



Doctor of Social Work (DSW)


Social Work


Gilbert T. Singletary


Relational aggression includes manipulative behaviors such as gossiping, spreading rumors, or practicing exclusion to intentionally destroy a peer's social reputation. Aggressive behaviors such as those found in relational aggression contribute to unsafe school environments. Research on relational aggression has increased in recent years, yet there is minimal research on relational aggression among African American adolescent females. The research questions were What is social workers' understanding of relational aggression? and How do social workers' cultural awareness and general understanding of African American females' relationships and interpersonal connections impact their ability to connect with their clients in the therapeutic relationship? The purpose of this qualitative study was to explore social workers' perceptions of relational aggression and African American females' social relationships and assess the impact of social workers' perceptions on their ability to connect with clients and provide effective therapeutic services. Relational cultural theory constituted the study's theoretical framework. Data were collected using a qualitative online synchronous focus group with six social workers who provide therapeutic services to female African American teenagers in the school setting. Purposeful sampling was used to determine the number of participants. Thematic analysis was used to identify common themes from interview data. Findings from this study revealed a mischaracterization of relational aggression in relation to bullying. The findings also revealed that social worker's cultural awareness and general understanding of African American females assisted them in being able to connect with the subpopulation in the therapeutic relationship.