Educational Psychology, Department of


Date of this Version



Evolutionary Psychology 2014. 12(2): 364-385


Navigating the ubiquitous conflict, competition, and complex group dynamics of the peer group is a pivotal developmental task of childhood. Difficulty negotiating these challenges represents a substantial source of risk for psychopathology. Evolutionary developmental psychology offers a unique perspective with the potential to reorganize the way we think about the role of peer relationships in shaping how children cope with the everyday challenges of establishing a social niche. To address this gap, we utilize the ethological reformulation of the emotional security theory as a guide to developing an evolutionary framework for advancing an understanding of the defense strategies children use to manage antagonistic peer relationships and protect themselves from interpersonal threat (Davies and Sturge-Apple, 2007). In this way, we hope to illustrate the value of an evolutionary developmental lens in generating unique theoretical insight and novel research directions into the role of peer relationships in the development of psychopathology.