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

September 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 of almost 150 studies of aggression in children and adolescents has found that while it's true that boys are more likely to engage in physical aggression, girls and boys alike take part in social aggression.

"These conclusions challenge the popular misconception that indirect aggression is a female form of aggression," according to Noel A. Card, assistant professor of family studies and human development at the University of Arizona and the study's lead author.

The analysis of 148 studies, which comprised almost 74,000 children and adolescents and were carried out largely in schools, looked at both direct aggression, which is usually defined as physical, and indirect aggression, which includes covert behavior designed to damage another individual's social standing in his or her peer group. Conducted by Card and researchers at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and the University of Kansas, the analysis appears in the September/October 2008 issue of the journal Child Development.

The researchers suggest that the myth that girls are more likely to be indirectly or socially aggressive than boys has persisted among teachers, parents, and even other researchers because of social expectations that develop early in life and recent movies and books that portray girls as mean and socially aggressive toward one another.

Based on the analysis, the researchers suggest that children who carry out one form of aggression may be inclined to carry out the other form; this is seen more in boys than in girls. They also found ties between both forms of aggression and adjustment problems. Specifically, direct aggression is related to problems like delinquency and ADHD-type symptoms, poor relationships with peers, and low prosocial behavior such as helping and sharing. In contrast, indirect aggression is related to problems like depression and low self-esteem, as well as higher prosocial behavior—perhaps because a child must use prosocial skills to encourage peers to exclude or gossip about others.

Source: Society for Research in Child Development

Explore further: Trans and gender-fluid teens left with few 'safe harbors'

Related Stories

Trans and gender-fluid teens left with few 'safe harbors'

February 28, 2017

Transgender and gender-fluid teens, particularly those born male, face up to three times more mental and physical abuse at school and at home than their gender-conforming peers, according to a new study from UC Berkeley.

Why skin-to-skin contact with infants is better for everyone

February 7, 2017

Carmela Torres was 18 when she became pregnant for the first time. It was 1987 and she and her now-husband, Pablo Hernandez, were two idealistic young Colombians born in the coastal region of Montería who moved to the capital, ...

Video games linked to sexism in teenagers: study

March 17, 2017

The more time a teenage spends on video gaming, the likelier he or she is to display sexist attitudes and gender stereotypes, a study of thousands of French gaming aficionados has found.

Aggressive boys tend to develop into physically stronger teens

February 27, 2015

Boys who show aggressive tendencies develop greater physical strength as teenagers than boys who are not aggressive, according to new research published in Psychological Science, a journal of the Association for Psychological ...

Recommended for you

The ethics of tracking athletes' biometric data

January 18, 2017

(Medical Xpress)—Whether it is a FitBit or a heart rate monitor, biometric technologies have become household devices. Professional sports leagues use some of the most technologically advanced biodata tracking systems to ...

Study shows blood products unaffected by drone trips

December 7, 2016

In what is believed to be the first proof-of-concept study of its kind, Johns Hopkins researchers have determined that large bags of blood products, such as those transfused into patients every day, can maintain temperature ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.