Girls Bullying Girls - TeachersAndFamilies

Girls Bullying Girls
An Introduction to Relational Aggression
From the National Association
of School Psychologists



Sarah considered herself to be a serious student. She had dreams of going to college and becoming a scientist. In elementary school she was close friends with the other girls in her gifted program. She looked forward to the academic challenges of junior high. But Sarah's friends from elementary school seemed to change. They started giggling about boys and clothes and MTV; they didn't want to talk about academics or going to space camp. Sarah tried to act interested in the things the other girls were talking about, but the conversations seemed really shallow to her and the other girls made fun of her when she didn't know the latest gossip about pop stars. Soon the other girls started avoiding her and making fun of her clothes and her interests. They never included her in their trips to the mall or their sleepovers, and they looked the other way when she approached them in the lunchroom. They got boys in the class to call and pretend to ask Sarah out on dates. They even posted unflattering pictures of Sarah on the Internet. Sarah had become a victim of female relational aggression.

The term "relational aggression" is used to describe a type of bullying primarily used by pre-adolescent and adolescent girls to victimize other girls—a covert use of relationships as weapons to inflict emotional pain. Researchers have found that, contrary to popular belief, girls are not less aggressive than boys, they are just more subtle or covert in their use of aggression. Mary Pipher, a clinical psychologist, brought popular attention to this form of harassment through her best-selling book, Reviving Ophelia . She notes that relational aggression is not a new social problem, but it is one that is becoming more widely recognized.

Knowing that your child is the victim of any act of bullying can be devastating to a parent. Understanding the nature of relational aggression can help detect harassment and help children learn to respond and seek support.




Parenting Start

This article is based on a longer article written by Marina Skowronski (Lincoln-Way Special Education Joint Agreement District 843); Nicole Jaffe Weaver (Kendall County Special Education Cooperative); and Paula Sachs Wise, PhD, NCSP and Ruth Marie Kelly, PhD, NCSP, who are on the school psychology faculty of Western Illinois University. The original article will be published in the Communiqu é , the newspaper of the National Association of School Psychologists, in March 2005. Used with permission.
Copyright © 2005 by The Source for Learning, Inc. • All rights reserved.