'Mean' girls and boys: the downside of adolescent relationships

Mar 02, 2010

Psychology researchers exploring relational aggression and victimisation in 11-13 year olds have found adolescent boys have a similar understanding and experience of 'mean' behaviours and 'bitchiness' as girls.

In-depth interviews with 33 adolescents who have previously been involved in either relational and/or victimisation, showed both girls and had personal experiences around unpredictable friendships, social exclusion, or rumour and gossip including the use of notes, phones, email and Internet.

Clinical psychologist Dr Rhiarne Pronk said mean behaviours in girls typically revolved around close friendship groups with 'dirty looks', ignoring and excluding behaviours, and going behind other people's backs.

"In boys, it was more about larger groups, more direct and in your face, and using teasing and other tactics such as exclusion from sporting games or teams," she said.

While the tactics may differ, and boys shared similar views on the reasons for relationally aggressive behaviours.

"They understood issues about power and , and manipulating friendships to increase social standing or acceptance."

"Relational aggression can also be about jealousy, anger, revenge and insecurity," she said.

Dr Pronk said the research also identified characteristics of adolescents that might put them at risk for victimisation. Negative characteristics included a lack of social appeal or emotional reactiveness while positive characteristics such as being too popular or talented also attracted unwanted attention.

Dr Pronk said it was normal for children and adolescents to experience friendship tensions at some stage, and that those challenges typically helped build resiliency and teach social skills.

However the more extreme, frequent and intense forms of relational aggression could cause longer term mental health and relationship problems.

"People can take the hurt through into their adult life, their workplaces and their ."

The research, part of Dr Pronk's PhD thesis at Griffith University, has been published in the Journal of Adolescent Research (March 2010), Vol 25, pp175-204.

Explore further: In funk music, rhythmic complexity influences dancing desire

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Psychological bullying hits just as hard

May 23, 2007

School bullying doesn’t have to leave physical bumps and bruises to contribute to a hostile and potentially dangerous school environment. Behavior that intentionally harms another individual, through the manipulation of ...

Move over mean girls -- boys can be socially aggressive, too

Sep 16, 2008

Society holds that when it comes to aggression, boys hit and punch, while girls spread rumors, gossip, and intentionally exclude others, a type of aggression that's called indirect, relational, or social. Now a new analysis ...

Teenagers use violence to boost their social standing

Dec 22, 2009

A new study looks in depth at the social relationships between male and female teenagers, relational violence, and psycho-social adjustment factors such as loneliness, self-esteem and satisfaction with life. ...

Recommended for you

Screenagers face troubling addictions from an early age

20 hours ago

In 1997, Douglas Rushkoff boldly predicted the emergence a new caste of tech-literate adolescents. He argued that the children of his day would soon blossom into "screenagers", endowed with effortless advantages over their parents, ...

User comments : 0

More news stories

Down's chromosome cause genome-wide disruption

The extra copy of Chromosome 21 that causes Down's syndrome throws a spanner into the workings of all the other chromosomes as well, said a study published Wednesday that surprised its authors.

New clinical trial launched for advance lung cancer

Cancer Research UK is partnering with pharmaceutical companies AstraZeneca and Pfizer to create a pioneering clinical trial for patients with advanced lung cancer – marking a new era of research into personalised medicines ...

Sony's PlayStation 4 sales top seven million

Sony says it has sold seven million PlayStation 4 worldwide since its launch last year and admitted it can't make them fast enough, in a welcome change of fortune for the Japanese consumer electronics giant.