Respect for adults versus peers: Implications for working with at-risk youth

Clemans, K.H., Graber J. A., & Bettencourt, A. (2012). Adult-Directed and Peer-Directed Respect for Authority: Relationships With Aggressive and Manipulative Behavior. Journal of Research on Adolescents, 480-486.

This study aimed to investigate the association between manipulative and aggressive behaviors and peer-directed and adult-directed disrespect.


The study used a quantitative approach to investigate a sample of young adults  from a public middle school in southeast America. The mean age was 12.6 years old and 286 students participated between the ages of 12-14.  Surveys were administered to participating students during math class.


The study measured three separate items:

Adult-directed and peer-directed respect for authority was measured in the same survey that utilized a 5 point scale, 1 (strongly agree) to 5 (strongly disagree).

Aggressive behavior was measured on two scales: direct and indirect aggression.  Direct aggression was measured with 8 items from the Aggression Scale.  Indirect aggression was measured using 8 items from Revised Peer Experiences Questionnaire.  Participants responded with a 1-5 Likert scale, 1 (never) and 5 (often).

Manipulative behavior was measured using the Youth Psychopathic Traits Inventory.  Responses were on a five point scale, 1 (almost always untrue) and 5 (almost always true).


The study found that there was higher levels of adult-directed respect than peer-directed respect.

Males were more likely to engage in direct aggression, while females are more likely to engage in indirect aggression.

Lower levels of adult-directed respect was associated with higher levels of negative social behavior.  Also, peer directed respect showed positive associations w/ manipulative behavior and indirect aggression.

Implications for mentoring: 

The study found that feelings of respect varied depending on whether respect was directed toward adults or toward socially dominant peers. In a similar way, adolescents may distinguish their feelings of respect for mentors from other adults.

There was no significant difference between boys and girls’ levels of adult-directed respect. However, boys reported slightly higher levels of respect for popular peers. This suggests that peer mentoring may be especially beneficial for boys.