Among modern children and adolescent peer relationships lies a subtle, but sinister variety of bullying that is becoming more prominent, especially among girls. It is called relational aggression and it is defined by behaviors that inflict harm on others by manipulating their peer relationships (Grotpeter, J. K. & Crick, N. R., 1996, p. 2329). It is a deliberately vindictive practice that endeavors to destroy an individual's reputation and their friendships through such tactics as disseminating rumors, gossip and lies, ostracizing the victim from peer groups, exposing the victim's secrets, and attempting to publicly humiliate the victim. Because of its covert nature, it has an especially insidious effect on the victim and his or her peer relationships, because of the deeply personal nature of the attack.
This specific type of aggression is engaged by children and adolescents of all ages and both sexes, although this behavior is more likely to be displayed in girls (1996). It is conjectured that the reason for the prominence of relational aggression in girls is largely due to the socialization of girls at an early age to be polite and non-confrontational.
Girls are often discouraged from shouting and acting out physically, whereas this type of behavior is expected and sometimes even encouraged in boys. Therefore, girls largely resort to clandestine and surreptitious maneuvers to express displeasure and opposition toward their peers. However, to some extent, it must be stated that everyone participates in this type of behavior from time to time, particularly gossip (Relational Aggression, 2007).
[...] Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 43, 619-25. Cowie, H. & Olafsson, R. (2003). The role of peer support in helping the victims of bullying in a school with high levels of aggression. School Psychology International, 21, 79-95. Crick, N. R. (1996). The role of overt aggression, relational aggression, and prosocial behavior in the prediction of children's future social adjustment. Child Development, 67, 2317-2327. Crick N. R. & Grotpeter, J. K. (1996). Children's treatment by peers: Victims of relational and overt aggression. Developmental Psychopathology, 8, 367-380. [...]
[...] Assertiveness training (Smith, P. K., Ananiadou, K., & Cowie, H., 2003) teaches children how to decline unreasonable and unwarranted requests or demands (usually from bullies), how to assert their personal rights in a non-threatening and non- aggressive style, and, lastly, how to effectively and innocuously negotiate their needs and desires with the needs and desires of others. The latter skill teaches children to obtain what they want without using coercive or aggressive tactics, while simultaneously recognizing the rights and worth of the other person. [...]
[...] Both of these types of conduct make children a target for bullying and relational aggression. Because aggression and abuse served as the model for these children, it is often the only behavior with which they know how to communicate. Therefore, they tend to alienate their peers with their aggressive behavior, causing them to be rejected by their peers, and, in turn, making them even more aggressive because of the rejection. It is a vicious cycle that is difficult to control, despite the introduction of intervention into these children's lives. [...]
[...] Relational Aggression. (2007). Retrieved November 25, 2007, from www.relationalaggression.com/. Shields, A. & Cicchetti, D. (1998). Reactive aggression among maltreated children: The contributions of attention and emotion dysregulation. Journal of Clinical Child Psychology, 27, 381-395. Smith, D. J., Cousin, J. B., Stewart, R. (2005). Antibullying interventions in schools: Ingredients of effective programs. Canadian Journal of Education, 28,(4), 739-762. Smith, D. J., Schneider, B. H., Smith, P. K., & Ananiadou, K. (2004). The effectiveness of whole-school antibullying programs: A synthesis of evaluation research. [...]
[...] In addition, research (Bolger, K. E. & Patterson, C. J., 2001) has also discovered that the length of the maltreatment is a potent predictor in the outcome of the child's future behavior. Chronic maltreatment has a far more destructive impact on a child's ability to socialize well with peers than acute or temporary maltreatment does. Specifically, any type of maltreatment lasting longer than five consecutive years has far more deleterious consequences than less chronic maltreatment. The type of maltreatment most likely to begin early and chronically persist throughout much of the child's life is neglect. [...]
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