September 16, 2008

Boys use gossip to bully too

Gossip, rumours and social exclusion aren't just used by girl bullies, says a study released today in the journal Child Development.

Surprisingly, boys do engage in this type of bullying – also called indirect aggression – just as often as girls, and continue to be much more likely than girls to use physical, or "direct" aggression such as hitting or punching, says the study led by Noel Card, assistant professor of family studies and human development at the University of Arizona.

"We have a tendency to think [...] that boys are physically aggressive and girls must be this other type of aggressive," Card said in an interview.

"There's no meaningful difference in indirect aggression between boys and girls. When you go in and observe kids, boys are just as likely to do these things as girls."

The study, called a meta-analysis, looked at 148 studies of about 74,000 children and teens. Card said even though boys engage in more physical bullying, "plenty of girls are physically aggressive too... We need to recognize that both types of aggression is a problem for boys and girls."

Regardless of the type of bullying, boys and girls who are the aggressors tend to suffer adjustment troubles, added Card – for physical bullies, problems such as delinquency, hyperactivity and poor impulse control, and for social bullies, depression and anxiety.

"If anything, I think we might say we're maybe paying too much attention to gender with regard to bullying and need to address that aggressive kids have problems irrespective of gender," he said.

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