Watching my middle-school girl navigate the world of adolescent social learning is eye-opening.
Dr. Wendy Walsh: These days, chicks hurl biting words via sophisticated weapons like Twitter, Facebook and e-mail. Recently, in an attempt to "divide and conquer," some sixth-grade girls made a fake e-mail account and -- posing as another girl -- sent a scathing e-mail to her best friend. Luckily, the authors of the fake note were caught and hauled into the principal's office with their parents.
It's during moments like this that I have even at times wished for less-complicated "boy" battles, which I assumed were mostly confined to the playing field. I was wrong.
A recent study about the rise of "mean boys" shows that adolescent boys are beginning to use the same tactics as girls and understand that the goal is to increase social standing. The researchers found that boys and girls had experience with unstable friendships, social exclusion and rumor and gossip through notes, phones, e-mail and the Internet. There were a few differences, though: The boys used larger groups and some in-your-face tactics (like teasing and taunting) more often than girls, and their group exclusions included banning victims from sports teams. But both girls and boys apparently agree on one thing: The purpose of their "mean" behaviors is to increase social standing and peer acceptance -- and this is often best done by manipulating friendships.
While some of this behavior falls within the range of normal social learning, some people who become the victims of social dominance and aggression as kids and teens can have mental health problems for life. Childhood emotional wounds can linger for decades, and cause adult relationship problems at work and home. Hear that, boys?
Have you had any experiences with mean boys? Let us know below.
|Dr. Wendy Walsh holds a Ph.D. in Clinical Psychology, and her area of interest is Attachment Theory -- a psychological, evolutionary and ethological theory that provides a descriptive and explanatory framework for understanding interpersonal relationships between human beings. As a psychological assistant registered with the Calif. Board of Psychology, Dr. Walsh has treated individuals, couples and families for a variety of mental health concerns, including personality disorders, anger management, eating and substance disorders and depression. Connect with Dr. Walsh on Facebook.|