Full-Court Press Aims to Tame Mean Teen Girls

Relational aggression by adolescent girls can include gossiping, rumor spreading, exclusion, and rejection.

Recent media coverage of this behavior — sometimes known as “mean girl” bullying — has shown that this form of aggression can lead to tragic and sometimes fatal outcomes.

University of Missouri researchers have developed a multi-pronged intervention strategy to decrease relational aggression among teen girls.

“Good outcomes can happen when priorities are set by schools and families to prevent and eliminate relational aggression,” said co-author Connie Brooks, Ph.D., an assistant professor in the Department of Health Psychology.

“This study was an attempt to address this social problem in a meaningful way by testing an intervention to reduce relational aggression among teen girls.”

The intervention, Growing Interpersonal Relationships through Learning and Systemic Supports (GIRLSS), is a 10-week group counseling, caregiver training and caregiver phone consultation intervention for relationally aggressive middle school girls and their families.

Students, ranging in age from 12 to 15, participated in one 70-minute session per week that included interactive discussions, media-based examples, role-playing, journaling, and weekly goal-setting.

At the end of the intervention, school counselors and teachers reported a decrease in relationally aggressive behaviors among the girls.

Caregivers of students participated in separate workshops and biweekly phone consultations during which they learned new communication, monitoring, and supervision strategies in addition to appropriate disciplinary responses.

“It takes a village to raise relationally healthy children,” said Melissa Maras, Ph.D., co-author and assistant professor in the Department of Educational, School and Counseling Psychology.

“This study represents a first step in helping school personnel meet the intervention needs of a diverse group of relationally aggressive girls.”

According to Brooks, relational aggression is a complicated issue with many variables, including schools, families and individuals. She said parents and teachers should be aware of relational aggression so they don’t unknowingly contribute to the negative behaviors.

In order for the intervention to expand to more schools, University of Missouri researchers hope to improve and further evaluate GRILSS based on feedback from the participants.

The study is published in the Journal of Child and Family Studies.

Source: University of Missouri

Mean girl bullying photo by shutterstock.