A Qualitative Study on Female Opinions of Female Bullying and Relational Aggression

Cindy L.S. McClure

Abstract

Abstract

According to the American Psychological Association, 160,000 children miss school each day because of a fear of bullying. Existing research indicates that the typical male style of bullying is distinctly different from the typical female style of bullying, which is referred to as relational aggression. This kind of aggression can cause damage to girls in the form of low self-esteem, eating disorders, and suicide. Research on female bullying has increased in the last five years, yet there is minimal research on relational aggression from the female perspective. The purpose of this qualitative study was to expand on the existing bullying research by exploring the opinions of 3rd, 5th, and 7th-grade girls (N=16) from a rural area of the Pacific Northwest regarding the definition, development, and response to female bullying and relational aggression with the use of semi-structured interviews. The main theoretical foundations for this study were the social learning perspective and the social information processing theory. Participant responses indicated differences by grade in the definition of relational aggression. There was general agreement among the responses that bullying increases over time. Participant responses supported previous research findings that victims, bystanders, and the bully suffer from the behavior. Findings from this study contribute to the body of knowledge about female bullying from a female perspective. This additional knowledge has the potential to assist education policy makers, school personnel, parents, and children in understanding and recognizing the female bullying process and consequences. This understanding will assist with recognition and intervention in bullying situations as well as the development and implementation of more effective bullying prevention programs specific to girls.