Reducing “Mean Girls” Behaviors in Classrooms Benefits Boys and Teachers Too
When a targeted program to reduce “mean girls behavior, among at-risk girls is benefits the entire class. Not just the aggressive girls for whom the program was developed.
Researchers from The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia(CHOP) recently reported these findings from Friend to Friend (F2F) . This was developed to prevent relational aggression among urban girls.
Relational aggression, popularized as “mean girl” behavior, is nonphysical. It consists of using gossip and social exclusion to manipulate social standing or reputations. In contrast to the physical aggression, more prevalent among boys, relational aggression is the most common type of aggression among girls.
How it Works
The study team examined the broader effects of Friend to Friend (F2F) for urban ethnic minority girls, as part of a school-based randomized trial. the Study compared F2F student to a control group
F2F is a 10-week, 20-session small group intervention designed for urban African-Americans. participants are 3rd to 5th grade girls. It that teaches problem-solving, anger management strategies, and leadership skills. Halfway through the intervention, the girls work with facilitators. In the classroom they co-lead 10 full classroom sessions of the F2F curriculum in an effort to reinforce the skills they learned and to promote their leadership and reputation change.
Six hundred and sixty five youth (46.3% male) from six schools within the School District of Philadelphia participated in the 2016 study. They were in third, fourth and fifth-grade classrooms which had aggressive girls randomized to either F2F or to HSO. These students rated their classmates on a series of behaviors (e.g., being nice, spreading rumors) while their teachers assessed their own relationships with each student.
After the intervention, not only did the targeted aggressive girls participating in F2F improve their behaviors, but boys within these girls’ classrooms scored higher in peer-ratings of positive friendships and being nice. They scored lower in peer ratings of rumor-spreading, exclusion and fighting, compared to boys in HSO.
The boys also had more positive relationships with their teachers than similar boys in HSO classrooms. Even girls in the F2F classrooms who were not involved in the direct group intervention were rated by peers as being higher in positive friendships and being nice compared to girls in the HSO classroom.
Leff and co-authors Tracy Evian Waasdorp and Brooke S. Paskewich published their findings online May 20, 2016 in Behavior Modification.
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