If you’ve ever encountered the ‘mean girls’ phenomenon… then you’ll know about the devastating effects it has on its victims.
And it’s nothing new.
Its more accurate title is ‘relational aggression‘.
The term Relational Aggression, was developed in the early ‘90’s by Dr. Nicki Crick. She defines RA as “emotional violence and bullying behaviours, focused on damaging an individual’s social connections within the peer group.”
Examples of this insidious behaviour are:
- socially ostracising someone
- and inciting others to do the same
- spreading rumours or gossip
- giving dirty looks
- name calling
- cyber bullying
And it’s more common than you may think.
Many of these so called ‘mean girl’ behaviours can be subtle and easily disguised – meaning that they can slip under the radar; making it difficult for adults to pick up on what’s going on.
To help you detect any of this type of clandestine bullying in your setting, I’ve compiled a list of three common myths about relational aggression:
1. Relational aggression is exclusively the domain of girls.
Wrong! In fact, boys and girls can both be perpetrators and victims.
2. Psychological bullying is not as painful as physical bullying.
Not true! Students report that being the victim of relation aggression actually causes as much pain and suffering as being physically attacked.
3.Popular students don’t engage in bullying others.
Nope! Relational aggression is driven by the desire to weaken another’s social status in order to boost your own standing. Sometimes, even the most popular students (who may perceive they have most to lose) will systematically undermine others in an attempt to remain ‘top dog’.
And the fall out can be devastating…
…with victims suffering from appalling after effects such as battered self esteem, eroded confidence, feelings of loneliness and isolation and in some cases even suicidal thoughts.
Key take aways:
- Relational aggression is not exclusive to girls
- can happen amongst all social circles
- causes as much pain and suffering as physical abuse
- has devastating after effects
Now you know the facts about relational aggression, look out for my next article: 3 practical strategies to tackle the mean girl phenomenon in your school.
In the meantime, why not download our anti-bullying resource pack: ‘Is it Bullying’ and help to educate your pupils and parents about the difference between bullying and being mean.