The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report that bullying is the third leading cause of death among people between the ages of 10 and 24, and there is a strong correlation between bullying and suicide. News reports of bullying-induced suicides are beginning to raise awareness of the consequences of bullying, and many schools have instituted anti-bullying programs. While girls sometimes engage in physical aggression, they're more likely to engage in relational aggression, a form of psychological bullying that can quickly destroy self-esteem, according to Rachel Simmons in her book "Odd Girl Out."
Relational aggression is a form of bullying in which one child is ostracized from the group. Girls might use the Internet to spread rumors, to anonymously insult another girl or to publicly humiliate victims. They might make fun of another student in class, whisper insults at her in the hall, leave graffiti on her car or home or attempt to damage her relationships with friends and boyfriends. Simmons reports that a majority of teenage girls report at least one instance of relational aggression. Because this form of bullying doesn't leave visible wounds, it often goes undetected.
Why Girls Bully
Girls bully for a wide variety of reasons, including peer pressure and the desire to fit in with a group. The National Youth Violence Prevention Resource Center reports that girls whose parents are either highly permissive or highly authoritarian are more likely to become bullies. Bullies tend to have little empathy for their victims and want to control and dominate others. Some bullies are both victims and aggressors, with the NYVPRC reporting that 6 percent of students report being both bullies and bullying victims. Simmons speculates that some girls might engage in relational aggression in the hope that participating in group aggression might save them from becoming victims themselves.
Any girl can be the target of a bully, but some factors increase the likelihood that a girl will be victimized. StopBullying.gov emphasizes that children who seem different from their peers due to sexuality, family income, transferring to a new school, wearing different clothes or having different values are more likely to be bullied. Students with a disability or who enter puberty much later or earlier than their peers may also be targeted.
School-based programs that emphasize a zero-tolerance policy for bullying can help reduce bullying, according to StopBullying.gov. Because parenting style can affect bullying, improved parental involvement may decrease bullying. Programs that develop empathy can help bullies see their targets as victims and decrease the likelihood of bullying. Northcoast Conflict Solutions emphasizes the importance of schools and parents taking bullying seriously, even if there are no physical injuries to the victim.
- Rachel Simmons; Odd Girl Out; 2003
- Bullying Statistics: Bullying and Suicide
- U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: Suicide Prevention
- GreatSchools: Why Are Those Girls So Mean?
- EduGuide: Girls Who Bully -- What, When, Where, Why, and How
- Northcoast Conflict Solutions: School Girl Bullies -- All the Rage!
- Archives of Suicide Research: Bullying, Cyberbullying, and Suicide
- U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: Understanding Bullying
- StopBullying.gov: Risk Factors
- GirlsHealth.gov: Bullying
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