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The University of Texas at Dallas, P.O. Box 830688, Richardson, Texas 75083-0688

News Release

News contact: Jon Senderling, UTD, (972) 883-2565, [email protected]

UTD Associate Professor Wins Major Grant
From the National Institutes of Health

Dr. Marion Underwood    RICHARDSON, Texas (Oct. 16, 2002) - An associate professor at The University of Texas at Dallas (UTD) has won a $1.8-million grant from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to study how the quality of children's friendships contribute to the psychological adjustment of young adolescents. Dr. Marion Underwood and her research group are particularly interested in the causes and effects of aggression - social as well as physical - among children aged nine to 14.

    "Social aggression includes behaviors such as exclusion, friendship manipulation, malicious gossip and non-verbal efforts at alienation and manipulation," Underwood, an associate professor in the School of Human Development and 2000-01 teacher of the year at UTD, explained. "It hurts others by damaging friendships, peer relations and social status."

    Social aggression may be particularly hurtful and worrisome for girls, Underwood said, adding that her research group will seek to understand what causes social aggression and what its developmental consequences might be. The study will look at aggression from the perspective of both the perpetrator and the victim.

    Underwood will follow 300 children and their families through a "developmental period in which social aggression has been shown to become more frequent and intense." The goal of the research is to develop prevention and intervention programs to promote the psychological adjustment of girls and boys by helping them to develop positive relationships.

    "Dr. Underwood is doing some very important work, and the NIH grant is an acknowledgement of that fact," said Dr. Bert Moore, dean of UTD's School of Human Development. "She is one of those rare individuals who is both a great teacher and a superb researcher."

    Underwood said her study will explore various factors that may contribute to differences in engaging in and being victimized by social aggression in the pre-to-early-teen age group and will investigate the possible impact on peer and romantic relationships, academic progress, self-concept and psychological adjustment. Because girls rarely engage in physical aggression, social aggression may be particularly significant in their development, Underwood said. She added, however, that since boys, too, may be victimized by social aggression, it is important to study such behavior with both genders.

    "Despite the recent flurry of attention by the news media to the so-called meanness of girls, there has been little systematic scientific research on the developmental origins and consequences of social aggression," Underwood said. "We are excited about this opportunity to study these behaviors in all of their complexity, but it is important to understand that many preadolescent girls and boys also have amazing strengths and are capable of being wonderful friends."

    Underwood, who has a Ph.D. in clinical psychology from Duke University, has taught at UTD for four years. She previously taught at Reed College in Portland, Oregon. A former National Merit Scholarship winner, Underwood teaches courses in abnormal psychology, has published widely and has been quoted in national publications. The NIH has supported her research on anger and aggression since 1995. She is the author of forthcoming book entitled "Social Aggression Among Girls."

About UTD

     The University of Texas at Dallas, located at the convergence of Richardson, Plano and Dallas in the heart of the complex of major multinational technology corporations known as the Telecom Corridor, enrolls more than 13,000 students. The school's freshman class traditionally stands at the forefront of Texas state universities in terms of average SAT scores. The university offers a broad assortment of bachelor's, master's and doctoral degree programs. For additional information about UTD, please visit the university's Web site at www.utdallas.edu.

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