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Study Finds Both Girls and Boys are Exposed to Relational Bullying

Study Finds Both Girls and Boys are Exposed to Relational Bullying

In perfect timing for National Bullying Prevention Month, a group of researchers from Norway performed observations in over 20 schools to find that despite the narrative that relational bullying is a “mean girl” phenomenon, boys are just as likely to be exposed.

For those unfamiliar, relational bullying is a non-overt form of bullying that happens over time and frequently goes unnoticed by parents and teachers, making intervention difficult.

"Relational Bullying is a form of bullying common amongst youth, but particularly so among girls, and involves a bully trying to hurt a peer and/or that peer’s standing within a particular peer group,” according to anti-bullying software company BRIM.

In nearly every other definition found in a quick search on the web, relational bullying is correlated primarily with being a habit of girls.

A writer for Psychology Today, for example, details an instance of relational bullying and at one point refers to it solely as “girl bullying.” 

Even the Norway researchers admit that before their study, they had preconceived notions that relational bullying was primarily carried out by girls while boys typically opted to be more direct in their confrontations.

This view was supported by many of the teachers the researchers talked to before conducting the study.

"The typical refrain was that boys are more direct, less cunning, and that they solve problems immediately as they arise. The girls' bullying is lingering, it is more covert, and may destroy the class environment,” said the Science Daily.

But after rereading their analysis, which was based on both in-class observations and interviews of students and staff, the researchers found that boys were actually just as exposed to relational bullying as girls.

According to the researchers, the boys in their study had a hard time identifying that relational bullying was happening, but described it nonetheless.

"I've noticed that if you try to talk to any of them, then they, like, don't always respond. They just ignore you. They think they're so much better than you. . . . When the teachers are around, they automatically respond. But as soon as the teacher is gone it's like talking to a glass wall,” said one boy to the researchers.

Rereading this boy’s account is one of the things that led the researchers to their conclusion that relational bullying affects both genders, though it is not as clear and concise for boys.

"The problem used to be that only direct bullying was subject to research, and here boys are overrepresented. But because covert bullying has been considered a girls' phenomenon, boys have been more or less excluded from the qualitative research on the field,” said the one of the study’s researchers Ingunn Eriksen to Science Daily.

The study’s findings indicate that when addressing relational bullying, it’s important to include boys, too, in both subsequent research as well as in teacher practices that promote positive school climates.

Read more here.

Nicole Gorman, Senior Education World Contributor

10/17/2016

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