Written by Kerrie Troseth
Bullying is a nationwide concern at every educational level. Middle school is especially prone to bullying among girls.
Popular movies like Mean Girls depict girls bullying girls in American schools. Unlike the movies, real-life bullying is cruel and stressful for girls being bullied. Girls at the middle school level tend to emerge as bullies and victims.
Adolescent Girl Development
Adolescent girls begin to development emotionally and physically as they grow towards adulthood. Onset of development brings about insecurity as girls begin to compare their development with other girls.
Physically, adolescent girls begin producing hormones that initiate body change. Some of the most noticeable signs are breast development, onset of menstrual cycles, and growth in height and shape. The same hormones affect girls emotionally. The surge of hormones can cause mood swings, which can lead to emotional ups and downs, insecurity, anger, and every other feeling at any given time.
Middle School Environment
Middle schools are prime environments for bullying to begin and continue. It is not the school itself but rather the housing place for adolescent girls to convene on a regular basis. Schools are set up to house large populations of students. Students at this age tend to gather in groups, or cliques. These groups travel around the school together: passing time, before and after school gathering points, and lunch. Students outside of the cliques are targets for bullying or harassment.
Girls as Bullies
Girls tend to bully because of insecurity, which includes jealousy. Girls tend to strive for attention, which helps girls to feel more secure of themselves. Teen brains have not fully developed, so thinking is not always rational.
Any girl who attempts to be an individual, through dress or expression, is going against the group norm of middle school cliques. Clique will generally dress in the same manner, hair is styled virtually the same, and thinking or opinions are the same. Girls who are individuals are considered different and may gain attention from boys or adults.
Cliques do not respond well to individualism, so they may attempt to stop the girl from being an individual. Examples may include:
· Name calling
· Remarks about clothing, hair, or style
· Cruel notes or Facebook remarks
· Overcoming Bullying
Bullying strikes to the heart of victims. The bullying feels like an emotional attack that affects the self-image of the victim. Victims can begin to feel worthless, picked on, sad, and stressed, especially if the girl attempts to process the situation by herself.
The first rule of overcoming bullying is to talk to an adult. Parents, school counsellors, teachers, and youth pastors are optimal people to confide in. Adults are able to intervene at a level to make change occur. Girls may feel as though the adult intervention may cause a bigger bullying situation; however, the opposite is true.
If the bullying is occurring during the school day, then school administration needs to be notified. Schools need to investigate all reported accounts of harassment, including bullying. Administration has outlined procedures to follow when reports are made. If a student has reoccurring harassment violations, the penalty becomes greater and greater. It only takes one victim to come forward to begin the process.
In conclusion, middle school bullying can be an empowerment issue for the bully and an emotional setback for the victim. Understanding reasons why girls are bullies can help victims to realize that the cause of the bully’s action. Victims need to come forward and report bullying situations to adults who then can assist in corrective action.
Kerrie Troseth, M.S., G.C.D.F., is a licensed school counsellor who specializes in adolescent personal and social development.
She is also a contributing writer for Suite101.com (http://www.suite101.com/profile.cfm/kbear71)