Aggression in Middle School Girls
It was eight o'clock on a cold night in January. Our house rang with giggles and whispers and the occasional shriek of laughter. In the family room the latest teenie-bopper flick was amusing a crowd of pajama-clad seventh-graders. The sound of pounding feet from above betrayed that others were having an impromptu dance party/ pillow fight. The phone book was missing. My little sister, Lily, was having a sleepover.
Mom had rushed to the store when it was discovered that there was no more ice cream in the freezer. My father had wisely retreated to the parlor to read. I was in charge. Suddenly, from upstairs I heard a door slam and raised voices. I gritted my teeth and went to investigate. Another door, further down the hall banged closed. I found Lily, standing in the middle of the hallway, one tightly shut door on her left, another on her right. The sounds of muffled sobbings came from within. Erica and Ashley were fighting again. Both parties were at an impasse. Lily, tired of being peacemaker, burst into tears on the floor. There was nothing to be done; Lily had been telling me the soap opera of Erica and Ashley's friendship for months.
The next morning, Erica and Ashley were brushing one another's hair, whispering about the other girls, and drinking orange juice from the same cup.
The fight and its rapid treaty weren't exactly new to me. Any female who has ever been in middle school or junior high can attest to the truth of the story of Erica and Ashley. But explaining the reasonings, emotions, and justification for the girls' actions is much more difficult. What goes on in the twisted, inner-workings of the thirteen-year-old female mind? Why do girls make their friends feel so terrible? Why do they change to fit in? Why are girls so downright mean?
The past ten years have seen a tremendous increase in interest in the psychology of young girls. Psychologists and social workers have churned out books, websites, and articles targeting parents, teachers and girls themselves, offering advice and research on how to handle pubescent girls. While there are many competing viewpoints, all seem to agree that, contrary to centuries of cross-cultural social stereotypes, girls are, in fact, naturally aggressive creatures. Unlike their male counterparts, young girls use entirely different forms of aggression, collectively known as subtle aggression or alternative aggression.
Every afternoon between Monday and Friday, Lily stalks up the driveway from the bus stop and hurls open the front door while throwing her book bag across the room. About three out of the five afternoons she stomps in with a melodramatic sigh and crumples into a chair or Mom's arms, weeping. Some days it is about her clothes- Erica says that outfit was frumpy. Other days it is about her size- some girls were giggling in the locker room before gym, it must be because she is fat. Still other days it is about the math test she...