Do girls and boys bully differently?

Boys tend to bully using physical aggression while girls tend to use relational aggression. (Photo: pikisuperstar)
Over the past two decades, bullying has become a true social epidemic, damaging and affecting the lives of so many, including children who have just started their school journeys. اضافة اعلان

Children are either teased, pushed, punched, left out, tormented, or humiliated, and in some severe cases, all of the above. Researchers have spent decades studying, analyzing, and categorizing all the different types of bullying and every renaissance it has had, from hiding someone’s school lunch to name-calling on the internet.

While for anyone who has experienced or is experiencing being bullied it might feel that they are alone and unique in their experience, statistics show otherwise. While the prevalence of bullying varies relatively worldwide, its prevalence in Jordan, based on a study done at the University of Jordan, stands at 47 percent.

The importance of understanding gender differences

Researchers have shown a growing interest in understanding the role that gender plays in bullying, and how gender stereotypes and gender identity affect the type of bullying and the experience that people have with it.

The way children experience their gender identity can heavily affect the way they interact with their peers and adapt to their environment. At the same time, gender stereotypes are what socialize children into their gender roles in the first place. So when society socializes boys into being strong and dominant, and girls into being sensitive and caring, the bullying will, in turn, look different.

Because these gender stereotypes have been perpetuated for so long and have become the social norm, especially in the Arab world, where the notion of a man being soft and sensitive and a woman being strong and independent still comes as quite a shock, a child who does not abide by his/her expected gender role tends to become a victim of bullying.

Female bullying

(Photo: Pixabay)

When we think of a girl bully, most would visualize the typical “mean girl”; popular, rude, self-centered, and usually, a girly girl. It is not uncommon for a girl bully to be someone who seemingly fits into the stereotype of what a woman is usually expected to be in society: a topic of frivolous gossip and a spreader of frivolous gossip. This is why many girls tend to bully each other either indirectly or through relational aggression, in which harm is done to the victims through damaging their relationships or their social status.

As any teacher or counselor would know, getting to the bottom of who started a certain rumor in a group of girls could take an extravagant amount of time. That is because girls usually tend to use indirect methods that might not be easy to recognize, which is why they go undetected for much longer. Which is why you might consider female bullying to be slightly more dangerous, because by the time the truth is uncovered and repercussions begin to make themselves felt, the emotional damage to the victim had already been done.

It is not a stretch to describe female bullying as intricately woven plans that are studied and meticulously executed. Whether it is passing judgmental looks, and whispering and laughing in someone’s face, or recruiting other girls to bully the victim, in turn also making them a victim, it is nothing short of psychological warfare.

One of the most common strategies used is convincing others not to be friends with a certain, less popular, girl. Girls tend to operate with a “pack mentality” to spread rumors' and gossip; they exclude whoever they want and make them feel like they do not belong, and threaten everyone else to comply with such demands, and most will out of fear that they will be punished and ostracized.

In many studies, female participants have even admitted to being glad that someone else is the chosen punching bag for emotional abuse, because as long as it is someone else, that means that they are safe.

Many girls disguise their bullying by acting in a passive-aggressive manner that they can defend if they are ever confronted by a figure of authority. Some studies have even shown that despite both boys and girls participating in cyber-bullying, girls tend to use it more frequently due to the anonymity that it offers.

Male bullying

(Photo: Pixabay)

Male bullies tend to choose the road of physical aggression as their main form of bullying. The key difference in the way boys bully can be traced to what society tells them they have to be. There is an understood “boy code” amongst males that conditions them to follow a set of rules that determine their manhood. Simply put, in order to be considered a real man, you have to be the leader of the pack; you have to be strong, macho, athletic, and dominant. This is why so many boys bully through fighting and dominating the weaker victim – who usually tends to have a weaker build – they enjoy the status that it brings.

Spotting bullying among boys might be easier due to its direct and outwards nature, as boys do not tend to bother hiding their bullying because, the reality is, most of them are proud of it. They are proud to find themselves in a principal’s office for beating up a weaker student, and that pride stems from the words of encouragement that they are most likely to receive from the men in their family over their hostile behavior toward others.

Research has also shown that boys tend to bully both boys and girls, while girls tend to only bully other girls. That can also be traced to gender stereotypes that socialize boys into seeing girls as being weaker and, therefore, an easier target.

However, bullying among boys does tend to blow over more quickly than that among girls. Boys show a greater tendency to accept and be more tolerant of a certain amount of bullying, which is why it is not unlikely for boys to remain friends or keep a certain civil relationship with someone who bullied them.

In conclusion, it is important that our approach, as parents and educators, to the issue of bullying be inclusive and gender-sensitive. It is important to recognize all experiences with bullying and identify all forms of it within school policy, along with clear and articulated prevention and intervention strategies that are tailored according to these experiences, shaped and driven by gender stereotypes.

While it is true that not everyone can be friends, we cannot simply brush off any type of bullying as part of normal social hierarchy that is unfairly deemed necessary for the formation of children in their environment.

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