Relational Aggression The REAL Mean Girls Carey Michael Collins and Wendy Willingham
What IS Relational Aggression? I’ve seen the movie, but what’s the deal with “Mean Girls?” Relational Aggression is a modern definition of an ancient problem: girl bullying. Relational Aggression is the practice of building relationships and then using those relationships as a mechanism for causing harm to another person.
What IS Relational Aggression • Relational Aggression takes many forms and may be directed at friends, acquaintances, enemies, and even complete strangers. • How is this accomplished? • Covert aggression: exclusion, social isolation, manipulation within a “friendship.” • Overt aggression: blatant acts of verbal or physical aggression; more recognizable forms of bullying.
Is this NEW? • Yes and No…Remember Nellie Olson? • Issues to consider: • Who’s Who in the Mean Girls scenario? • Who is affected? • Media influences • General acceptance of the behavior • Long term effects • Social and developmental issues
The Queen Bee Manipulative Usually very popular Well-liked by adults May appear sweet, friendly, or unlikely to cause harm to others Usually the “brains” behind the situation
The Sidekick The sidekick is usually the “mean” one but is second in command to the queen. The sidekick probably does the “dirty work.” She is usually aggressive toward others and submissive to the queen. She wants to stay in the queen’s good graces at all times and at all cost.
The Gossip The gossip can frequently be heard uttering the phrase, “Don’t tell anyone I told you, but…” Extremely secretive, the gossip is self-aggrandizing, a good communicator, and gives the perception of being a trustworthy listener. The gossip is often seen as an ally, but she may be your worst enemy…
The Floater She moves freely between groups and fits in with virtually everyone. She avoids conflict and generally doesn’t want to exclude others. She may float toward the Queen Bee at times, but she gets back on track quickly.
The Bully She is probably outspoken, defiant and tough. She displays cruelty to weaker people and is more likely to use physical violence.
The Bystander She is caught between the aggressors and the victims. She often won’t intervene for fear of becoming a victim. She may try to be a peacemaker, and she has a hard time saying, “No.” The bystander may stir up trouble to deflect attention from herself.
The Wannabe This girl will do ANYTHING to be a part of the inner circle and to be in the good graces of the Queen. She is a gossip and a pleaser and will stab anyone in the back to move up the ranks.
The Target This girl feels helpless and excluded. She feels isolated and defensive and may sometimes compromise her identity to fit in or to deflect negative treatment from others.
RA Issues to Consider • Methods of Relational Aggression: • Exclusion, Isolation or Ignoring • Spreading rumors • Verbal insults, Teasing, Intimidation, Eye rolling • Manipulative Affection - This one can be the most dangerous because it involves building a trusting relationship with the intent of causing harm to the victim.
RA Issues to Consider • Media Influences • Often accepted examples of RA appear in television, movies, video games, music, and on the internet. • Cyber-Bullying is the fastest growing and most frequently cited form of harassment that we deal with in schools and in society. • Cyber-Bullying may include the following: Three-way calling, Video/Picture phones, Instant messages, social networking sites (myspace, Facebook, etc), Email, texting, etc.
RA Issues to Consider • Cyber-Bullying Statistics (from 2005) • 18% of students in grades 6-8 reported having been bullied online recently (past few months) • 11% of students in grades 6-8 reported having bullied another person recently (past few months) • Girls are twice as likely as boys to be both perpetrators and victims of online bullying • Cyber-bullying is reported as the most common form of harassment between students in grades 6-8
RA Issues to Consider • CYBER-BULLYING: Why is it so popular? • Students feel as though they have anonymity and the freedom to say things that they normally would not say directly to someone. • The internet is available ALL of the time - there are no breaks in opportunities to harass another person. • The reachable audience is enormous - students can get their message to mass groups • It can be done during school hours without detection (text messaging) • The “show” that is created gives the perpetrator credibility because it appears to be gutsy.
RA Issues to Consider • General acceptance of behaviors: • Many RA behaviors are widely accepted as “normal” girl behaviors. • RA is often viewed as a “rite of passage” for girls. • RA is seen in the media as funny or commonplace. • The problem is that, while behaviors may be considered “acceptable,” very few of us take time to consider the long term effects.
RA Issues to Consider • Long Term Effects • While RA is often overlooked, the long term effects can be devastating socially, personally, and developmentally. • Girls who experience RA (in a variety of forms) may also deal with the following: • Interrupted identity formation, poor self, esteem, feelings of rejection • Powerlessness, hopelessness, inability to trust others • Anger, frustration, loneliness and isolation • Stress, anxiety, separation anxiety, poor academic performance
RA Issues to Consider • Long Term Effects • Girls who experience RA (in a variety of forms) may also deal with the following: • Depression, which can lead to substance use, self-injury, eating disorders, suicidal ideation, delinquent behavior, homicidal ideation • Because many girls are willing to do anything to fit in, they may turn to gang activity or affection from boys, which can often lead to pregnancy and/or promiscuity.
What Can Educators Do? • Identify RA in your classrooms: Use your who’s who! • Teach girls to “POWER UP” • I am CAPABLE, and I have MANY STRENGTHS! • I can STAND UP for myself and OTHERS! • Powering Up is empowerment based on individual strength, which is derived from successes and positive messages. Educators can provide girls with innumerable opportunities to have success and receive positive messages. • One Negative/Seven Positive Rule
What Can Educators Do? • Explore normative beliefs: many of our girls have never explored their own beliefs and motivations - THEY don’t even know why they are the way they are! • Is it ok to talk bad about someone and spread rumors? What if someone else started it first? Should you repeat it • Is it ok to make fun of someone or to laugh at them? If so, when is it ok? When is it NOT ok? • Is it ok to do nothing or to watch as someone else is excluded or gets made fun of? • Is it ok not to let someone sit by you or join your group? Why or why not? • Is it ok to boss someone around or to say, “If you don’t do it my way then I’m not going to be your friend.”?
What Can Educators Do? Create opportunities for girls to participate in service-learning or volunteer activities. MODEL appropriate behavior... How do YOU interact with the women with whom you work??? (This might be a good workshop to present to a faculty...) Encourage girls to become involved in extra-curricular activities. This will open their scope of potential friends and help them to establish a strong sense of identity and personal accomplishment.
What Can Educators Do? • Ask your counselors for help! That’s what we’re here for! • Implement classroom meetings, and encourage input from your students. • This is a GREAT time to teach EMPATHY and relationship-building skills. • This is also a GREAT time to teach them to compliment one another! • Ask these questions: • What are we doing well in our class? • What do we need to improve? • How can we help one another to do better?
Misguided Interventions: A list of “don’ts” Peer Mediation of conflicts - RA is not a conflict. It is a form of abuse. Peer mediation implies that the victim is responsible in part for the situation. Small groups made up of only one type of (All Queens, sidekicks, victims, etc): The aggressive girls will reinforce others’ behaviors in an attempt to gain credibility in the group. Intervention based groups: prevention based groups show more success than interventions. RA must be confronted, defined, called-out and reeducated. Girls don’t know what RA is until they are told.
Dealing with RA Parents • We CANNOT change relationally aggressive parents, but we can learn how to cope with them and the effects of their behavior. • Never sit behind your desk. Instead, move your chair closer and sit in front of the parent. This sends a strong, assertive message that you are confident in the situation. • Listen attentively, and always respond respectfully. • EXPECT RESPECT from the parent, and don’t accept anything less.
Dealing with RA Parents • Continued… • Remain calm, maintain eye contact, and don’t argue or interrupt. • Don’t accuse or judge; state how you feel about the situation. • If the situation becomes heated, simply state that you don’t allow others to treat you with disrespect and that you will be happy to continue the conversation once the parent has calmed down. • If they continue PAUSE... LOOK AT THE PERSON WITHOUT EMOTION... TURN, and WALK AWAY!!!
Resources • Books • Girl Wars: 12 Strategies That Will End Female Bullying by Cheryl Dellasega, PhD • Odd Girl Out by Rachel Simmons • Odd Girls Speaks Out by Rachel Simmons • Mean Chicks, Cliques, and Dirty Tricks by Erika V. ShearinKarresPlease • Stop Laughing at Me: One Woman’s Inspirational Journey by Jodee Blanco • Surviving Ophelia by Cheryl Dellasega, PhD • Reviving Ophelia: Saving the Selves of Adolescent Girls by Mary Pipher
Resources • Websites about RA: • www.opheliaproject.org/main The Ophelia Project is the leading resource for RA. This is an outstanding site for learning more about RA. • www.relationalaggression.com • www.intheknowzone.com/relational_aggression/www.relationalaggression.org • www.girlsempowered.org • www.girlsinc.org • www.empowered.org • www.girlscircle.com
Resources • Other Online Resources: • www.cyberbullying.com • www.castleworks.com • www.stopbullyingnow.hrsa.gov • www.kidseq.com • www.nasocenter.org • www.pbis.org/schoolwide.htm • www.watchdogpc.com
Resources • Decoding Online Language: • www.teenchatdecoder.com • www.onlineslang.com/onlineslangdictionary.com/ • www.urbandictionary.com. • www.transl8it.com • www.webopedia.com • www.whatis.com • www.mypfreeproxy.com • www.keylogger.com
Resources • Social Networking Sites: • Myspace • Facebook • Bebo • Friendster • YouTube • OnlineSlamBook • Xanga • Black Planet
Resources Movies Television 90210 Gossip Girl The Bachelor (HELLO!!!) Pretty much anything on VH1 (Rock of Love, Flavor of Love) or Mtv (The Hills, The City) Degrassi Queen Bees (a reality show on The N) Law and Order: SVU (Season 5, Episode: Mean) • Mean Girls • Thirteen • Hairspray • Confessions of a Teenage Drama Queen • Pretty in Pink • Clueless • Odd Girl Out • Bring It On • Jawbreaker • Never Been Kissed
Questions? Comments? • We are more than happy to share this information with you, and all resources will soon be posted on our GMS Counselors’ Webpage. • You can email us for links, information, or the presentation at: • firstname.lastname@example.org • email@example.com
Acknowledgements: This presentation has been adapted in part from “Mean Girls: Strategies and Resources to Identifying and Helping Relationally Aggressive Girls and Empowering Their Victims” By Allyson A. Bowen, LISW-CP The photos used in this presentation were obtained through various websites and are not intended to be used for profit of any kind. Movies, videos and clips used in this presentation are not intended to be used for profit of any kind.