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Bullying between girls: From friends to feuds and back again.

Bullying between girls: From friends to feuds and back again.

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An essay for the 2011 Undergraduate Awards Competition by Sarah Stevenson. Originally submitted for Contempory Issues in Pastoral Care SES3041 at Stranmillis University College, with lecturer Dr. Noel Purdy in the category of Teacher Education
An essay for the 2011 Undergraduate Awards Competition by Sarah Stevenson. Originally submitted for Contempory Issues in Pastoral Care SES3041 at Stranmillis University College, with lecturer Dr. Noel Purdy in the category of Teacher Education

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Published by: Undergraduate Awards on Aug 29, 2012
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Bullying between girls: From friends to feuds and back again
This essay explores bullying among girls with particular focus on the impact bullying can have and strategies which can be implemented within schools. The importance of relationships in the lives of young girls and the consequential instability of these relationships is explored as a key influence uponbullying. The levels of both indirect and direct aggression are compared in relation to methods of bullying employed by girls. Finally the impact that bullying has upon the lives of young girls into the future is also explored which leads to discussion of strategies which may be implemented in schools tohelp reduce the levels of bullying between girls.
Key Words
: Bullying, relationships, indirect aggression, friendship, conflict 
In any situation where people are working alongside each other and building relationships there isan opportunity for bullying to develop as people try to establish their position and relationships intheir working community. Schools hold many young people who everyday are building fragilerelationships and this may mean that many young people become a potential bully or victim withinthe school community. Like the workplace there are a myriad of personalities within our schoolswhich leads to the diverse nature of bullying. Bullying cannot be bound to one specific type of pupilsbut affects many pupils across the school remit as a result of their age, gender, looks, race, ability oreven sexuality. This essay will seek to investigate one element of bullying, girls bullying, and toexplore the impact upon post primary pupils and the strategies schools may use to attempt tocombat this.Before beginning to focus on girls bullying it is important to outline the nature of bullying itself.Within school life there may be many quarrels and innocent arguments on any given day betweenfriends or classmates but Olweus (1993, p.9) defines bullying as
A student is being bullied or victimized when he or she is exposed, repeatedly and over time, tonegative actions on the part of one or mor
e other students’ . Therefore only negative behaviour
repeated over time can be classed as bullying which ensures that silly arguments between friendswhich teachers may hear about on a daily basis are not misconstrued in the search for bullies.Bullying can take many forms but preconceived notions relate bullying as physical violence in theschool often at break or other unsupervised times. The tools of bullies often seen as directaggression are often related to boys with the presumption that girls do not act out with suchaggression but use other forms of abuse.
Besag (2006 a) argues that bullying between girls has not been subject to the same level of interestor research as other forms of bullying and this may be because of the indirect nature of aggressionwhich girls predominately use. Indirect aggression may include methods such as gossiping aboutothers, name calling and exclusion of victims. Collins et al (2004) suggests these methods take amuch more subtle form than the predominant direct aggression methods favoured by boys meaningthat it may be a lot harder for teaching and other school staff to spot bullying behaviour in girls.Bullying behaviour in girls may also be harder to spot as girls use a diverse range of tactics to hurttheir victims and as a result it may be hard to pin down one identifying bullying behaviour. Besag(2006a) argues that indirect aggression often used by girls is seen as less serious than directaggression such as physical violence. This may be because direct aggression and physical violenceleave scars and physical wounds which can be seen and used as evidence of violence but indirectaggression will leave only emotional scar
s damaging girls’
self esteem and confidence which cannotbe seen by others. However Owens et al (2000) argues that girls feel attacks of indirect aggressionhurt more than physical attacks as the effects can still be felt into later life. Bjorkqvist et al (2002)argues that girls may use indirect aggression to mask their own aggression as it is easy not to admitthat you were being purposely aggressive. However Campbell (1986) challenged the notion that girlsare not involved in direct aggression and fighting. Her report found that within the sample of twohundred and fifty one adolescent female pupils 89% had been in a fight and 73% of these fights hadinvolved another girl. The sample was however taken only from comprehensive schools in workingclass areas so a larger study would be needed to investigate if this result would be repeated invarious forms of schools, locations and socio-economic areas. It does however indicate that thereare girls who do engage in direct aggression as well as indirect aggression.There have been many reasons cited for bullying among girls but one major factor may be thedelicate nature of relationships between girls as suggested by Besag (2006a). This delicate nature of 
friendship means that ‘most of the quarrels and conflic
ts among girls appear related to their
friendship groups’. (Besag
, 2006a, p.537)Many female friendship groups are built on emotion as Besag (2006b, p.72)
argues ‘Emotional
connections such as unity, empathy, solidarity, plus mutual support, feature largel
y in girls’
relationships. This intensity of emotion may be the reason that girls often seem to form closer bondswith their friends than boys do. (Besag, 2006b; Bjorkqvist, 1992)Girls form groups of friends but within these the best friend is often the one with whom confidencesare shared. As confidences are shared within the best friend dyad this relationship is based on ahuge amount of trust and if this trust is betrayed Besag (2006a) found that relationships will
inevitably break down which may lead to bullying of former friends. (Bjorkqvist et al, 1992; Owens etal, 2000) Many girls seem to find confidence in having a best friend and develop intenserelationships similar to those of partners. However this dyad of friendship is not resistant to theinfluence and interference of others. As girls may have a group of friends but choose a best friendthere are opportunities for the position of best friend to be removed and new girls to take that role.Besag (2006a) argues that within girls
relationships best friends often fluctuate meaning that bestfriends are easily changed. This can lead to girls becoming involved in a
triad of tension
in whichmany girls may be jealous of a new person coming in and gaining the trust of their best friend whichcan lead to tension and attacks of indirect aggression against someone new to the group. Besag(2006b) argues that boys are much more able to deal with threesomes than girls which may be dueto the lower emotional attachments within their friendships. Tensions within triads can lead toconflict as favour fluctuates between friends which may lead to one friend being ostracised andsocially rejected.Bullying in adolescent girls as well as being linked to fragile friendships also has an association withrelationships of another kind, those between male and female peers. Adolescent girls may look tofind partners as a way to find identify for themselves and to improve their own social standing. Theattention or lack of it from boys in school can hold major sway as to levels of popularity and evengirls
own self esteem. This can lead to competition between girls for partners which adds a newreason for conflict to the delicate friendships already in existence. Campbell (1995) argues that thereare three main areas in which female adolescent aggression is rooted, all of which relate to having apartner. These are
‘sexual reputation, access to des
irable partners and jealously and proprietary of 
ownership of partners and resources.’
(Campbell, 1995)Girls can be heavily impacted by bullying and these impacts may be felt for the rest of their lives.Indirect aggression commonly used by girls to bully may attack a victims feelings about herself andthe way that others view her. Often when a best friend has been ostracised from the relationshipthe initial reaction may be one of shock and confusion as they try to understand why therelationship has broken down. Owens et al (2000) argues that victims will often deny what ishappening to them as they cannot understand why it has occurred. If girls have been ostracised fromtheir group of friends they may feel huge amounts of hurt and loneliness as other former friendsavoid them because of fear of becoming the next victim.

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