"Help, Our daughter is a bully!!! My baby is now a ringleader, leading her pack of 10-year-old worshippers to torment a poor classmate daily. They make fun of this girl's clothes because she wears the same pants and her hair which is not stylishing coiffed. I've been called into the principal's office repeatedly. I am ashamed of my child. She is beautiful and makes friends easily, but what about her inner beauty...where is that? I've thought of transferring her to another school, but I'm afraid she will just hold court there, too." When you first read her headline, the knee-jerk reaction is to say: Hey wait a minute -- your daughter, a bully? Aren't most bullies boys? NOT!
Girls display their own insidious and vicious form of aggressiveness -- called "indirect aggression" by Debra Pepler, director of York University's LaMarsh Centre for Research on Violence and Conflict Resolution. Recently a symposium on girlhood aggression -- the first of its kind in North America -- took place in Toronto, Canada.
Girls are socialized to suppress displays of physical brutality by age two. That is not to say their hostility disappears -- it just goes underground. It reinvents itself and ascends during the middle-school years in the form of backstabbing, belittling, and intimidating behavior. Girls it seems have to fine-tune their cruelty.
The damage is no less catastrophic to victims. Those who have been the subject of rumors, ridicule, the silent treatment, and ostracism report these fates feel as distressing as physical aggression.