Bullying / Relational Aggression

  • What is Bullying?

    • Bullying is aggressive behavior that is intentional and that involves a real or perceived imbalance of power or strength.
    • Typically, it is repeated over time.
    • A child who is bullied has a hard time defending herself.
    • Bullying can take many forms:
      • Hitting or punching (physical bullying)
      • Teasing or name calling (verbal bullying)
      • Intimidation using gestures or social exclusion (nonverbal bullying or emotional bullying)
      • Sending insulting messages by computer or phone (cyber bullying)

    What is Relational Aggression?

    Relational aggression is behavior that is intended to harm someone by damaging or manipulating his or her relationships with others or by injuring one’s feelings of social acceptance.
    (Crick and Grotpeter, 1995)

    Relational aggression is also:

    • More common and more studied among girls than boys
    • Varies by age
    • Knows no boundaries/does not discriminate: race, religion, socio-economic status, education

    What Does Relational Aggression Look Like?


    • Exclusion/Purposefully ignoring someone (the “silent
    • Malicious gossip and rumor spreading
    • Taunting and name calling
    • Alliance building- Telling others not to play with a certain classmate
    • Covert physical aggression-staring, sticking tongue out, posturing
    • Cyber bullying

    What Motivates Relational Aggression?

    • Status -“If I control my friends I am the
      best one”
    • Belonging – “If I share the secret she told me with you, my information can get me ‘in’ with the popular group.”
    • Sting of Insecurity or Fear – “I’m afraid of being rejected by my classmates, or that I’ll be the next target, so I go along with it.”
    • Drama – “I’m bored, and relational aggression creates drama and excitement.”
    • Path to Popularity – “I am popular if people do what I say or if I can make people act a certain way.”

  • Isn’t Relational Aggression Just Normal Behavior?

    No. It’s easy for parents and other adults to marginalize relational aggression. However, this attitude perpetuates the myth that bullying and peer aggression, and the hurt caused by both, are “normal” or “just how kids are” or simply a “rite of passage.”

    What Is Harmful About Relational Aggression? Why Address It?

    Peer aggression cannot be passed off as “normal” when you examine its harmful effects and consider its implications in future adult relationships. In some cases, the lasting effects of relational aggression are considered more hurtful than those of physical aggression.
    Directly responsible for creating the low self-esteem that leads women toward:

    • Abusive relationships
    • Unwanted pregnancies
    • Drug and alcohol addiction
    • Eating disorders like anorexia to bulimia
    • Inability to interact socially in a comfortable manner (avoidance and withdrawal)

  • How Can I Protect My Child From The Harmful Effects Of Relational Aggression?

    Research suggests that girls are less likely to be involved with relationally aggressive behavior. If girls are…
    • More connected to their school (e.g. involved in activities, clubs, sports)
    • Have secure relationships with adults- feel safe, have good role models
    • Demonstrate empathy and report more forgiveness – practice
    • Report less tolerance of relationally aggressive behaviors in others

    What To Do If Your Child Is Being Bullied

    1. Focus on your child. Be supportive and offer a listening ear.

    2. Ask open-ended questions to find out more about the situation.

    3. Role play and brainstorm with your daughter ways for her to handle the situation.

    4. Reach out to a trusted adult at the school for support and an action plan.

    What To Do If Your Child Is Bullying Others?

    Important to intervene immediately. Without intervention, bullying can lead to serious academic, social, emotional and legal difficulties.

    What You Can Do To Make A Difference

    1. First and foremost, set a good example.

    2. TALK to your children often-the goal is steady and often

    3. Take action

  • Additional Resources

    The Ophelia Project online educational and research tools are designed to provide progressive educational materials for teachers, counselors, administrators and parents against relational aggression

    A facilitator’s guide to working with middle school girls around the topic of bullying.

    The Anti-Defamation League’s No Place for Hate Program. This includes a resource guide with over 100 activities and how to make your school a No Place for Hate School.

    Bullies 2 buddies introduces a new perspective: “How to Stop Being Teased and Bullied without Really Trying”

    Bullying.org A website dedicated to prevent bullying in our society through education and awareness. This site includes educational programs and resources to individuals, families, educational institutions and organizations.

    Bullied: A Student, a School and a Case That Made History  Free documentary offered by the Southern Poverty Law Center that is designed to help teachers and administrators create safer and more inclusive environments for their students

    Eyes On Bullying offers resources and toolkits for parents and educators developed by the Education Development Center to help stop bullying

    Committee for Children offers curriculum for educators regarding bully prevention and building safe school environments

    Preventing and Countering School-Based Harassment: A Resource Guide for K-12 Educators, Revised Edition

    Stopbullying.gov Government website that highlights facts and information for students and parents about how to deal with relational aggression and bullying

    The American Psychological Association on bullying

    National Bullying Prevention Center has helpful resources for students, parents and schools


    Little Girls Can Be Mean: Four Steps to Bully-Proof Girls in the Early Grades by Michelle Anthony
    (St.Martin’s Griffin)

    Odd Girl Speaks Out: Girls Write about Bullies, Cliques, Popularity, and Jealousy by Rachel Simmons
    (Harvest Books)