Contrary to popular belief, tactics such as spreading malicious rumours, social exclusion and rejection to harm or manipulate others are used more often by boys than girls, says a new research.
At every grade level, boys engaged in such relationally aggressive behaviour more often than girls, showed the findings of the study that followed a cohort of students from middle to high school.
“We have books, websites and conferences aimed at stopping girls from being aggressive, as well as a lot of qualitative research on why girls are relationally aggressive,” said lead researcher Pamela Orpinas, professor at the University of Georgia in the US.
“But oddly enough, we do not have enough research on why boys would be relationally aggressive because people have assumed it’s a girl behaviour,” Orpinas added.
The researchers analysed data collected from 620 students.
Students who participated in the study completed yearly surveys, which allowed the researchers to identify and group them in distinct trajectories for relational aggression and victimization as they progressed from grade six to 12.
The researchers found that girls are more likely than boys to be targets of relational aggression.
“Overall, we found relational aggression to be a very common behaviour. Almost all of the students surveyed, 96 percent, had passed a rumour or made a nasty comment about someone over the course of the seven-year study,” Orpinas said.
The findings ultimately emphasise a need to include boys and girls equally in programmes aimed at reducing relational aggression.
The study was published online in the journal Aggressive Behavior.