The relationship between direct and indirect aggression and social competence among three cultural groups in South Africa
The aim of this exploratory study was to investigate the causal relationship between levels of direct and indirect aggression and the presence of social competence (specifically the ability to initiate relationships, portray negative assertion, disclose personal information, provide emotional support and advice, and to manage social conflict) among different cultural groups in South Africa. Two questionnaires, the RCRQ (Richardson Conflict Response Questionnaire) the ICQ (Interpersonal Competence Questionnaire) measuring respectively aggression and social competence were administered to 729 black, coloured and white pregraduate university students from the University of the Western Cape and the University of Stellenbosch. The results showed poor but significant relationships between aggression and social competence. Strong significant cultural, gender and interaction effects were found. It was found that direct aggression is positively associated with the ability to initiate relationships as well as negative assertion, but there was a negative correlation with empathy. Indirect aggression was found to be negatively correlated with negative assertion. However, less significant results were found between cultural groups that do not fully reflect the results obtained for the total group. Significant gender differences for direct aggression were reported by the coloured and white groups with females engaging in less direct aggression than males. For indirect aggression it was reported that coloured females display significantly less aggression than males. The only significant cross-cultural difference in aggression for males was found for direct aggression where coloured males reported higher levels than the other groups. White females displayed significantly less direct aggression whilst coloured females reported significantly lower levels of indirect aggression than the other groups. Regarding social competence, significant gender differences were found in the black group for negative assertion and interpersonal conflict and within all three groups for empathy. Finally, significant cross-cultural differences were reported in four of the five domains of social competence. Enough evidence was found for high social competence to be associated with relatively low levels of aggression. These findings can make a significant contribution towards further research in this field and the subsequent development and implementation of more social skills programmes aimed at children. Such social competence training programmes may equip the next generation with sufficient skills to handle conflict and aggression in an acceptable manner and may subsequently reduce violence in our society.