Mean Girls Are Less Common than Mean Boys, Says Study That Probably Contradicts Your Middle School Experience
Mean girls are everywhere in our culture, and I'm not talking about the movie (even though that's pretty ubiquitous too). Pretty much any movie set in a high school has the stereotypical "rich alpha bitch," and if you've taken a psychology class, chances are they've talked about the gender divide between relational and physical aggression. However, it's starting to look like that idea is outdated, because a recent study found that boys use relational aggression more often than girls. The University of Georgia study had participants from all over northeast Georgia complete a survey each year throughout middle and high school, reports Science Daily. Relational aggression, a form of bullying that targets the victim's social status using rejection, social exclusion, etc., is typically associated with girls, and physical aggression with boys. There have been all kinds of hypotheses for the reasons behind this over the years, but currently the thinking is that, unlike boys, girls aren't encouraged to display physical aggression, so they turn to other outlets. While relational aggression was pretty much universal — 96 percent of respondents admitted to spreading rumors or making comments about other students at some point in the study — researchers were surprised to find that boys were actually far more likely to perpetrate it.
Conversely, girls were far more likely to be victims of relational aggression. As the authors of the study mentioned, almost all research on the subject focuses on the perpetrators rather than the victims of this kind of bullying, so more studies will have to be conducted before we can explain why girls are likely to be targeted. Lead author Dr. Pamela Orpinas also pointed out that research disproportionately focuses on girls who display relational aggression because "people have assumed it's a girl behavior." As any psychologist will tell you, the field is far from unbiased, so the expectation that women use more emotional tactics may have caused a self-fulfilling prophecy: scientists assume girls are more likely to spread rumors, so they focus on reducing that problem rather than questioning whether girls are more relationally aggressive in the first place. We can all agree that bullying is a problem that has yet to be addressed with much success, but with this study's results, hopefully more research will be done on how both genders perpetrate and respond to it. Maybe "mean boys" should have been the subject of the Mean Girls sequel instead of... whatever you want to call the travesty that they ended up making. I know several people who would pay good money to see Ian Somerhalder as the male equivalent of Regina George. (You're welcome for the idea, legions of Hollywood producers who read my blog.)
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