I still remember getting my first perm in middle school and smiling from ear to ear when the most popular girl in the school touched my hair and told me it “looked great.” That compliment felt like a rite of passage, at an age where acceptance was constantly sought out by most girls–even at the cost of meanness.
Once I started playing sports, I found a group of girls that were supportive and caring, many of whom I still keep in touch with today. But even while my team gave a sense of belonging, I still witnessed how very real the mean girl problem was. As I look at my young daughter, so devoted and loving to her friends and peers, I can’t help but cringe at the thought of her eventual experience with the mean girl problem.
The National Center for Education Statistics reported in 2019 that an average of 22 percent of students ages 12 to 18 reported being bullied, with girls reporting significantly higher (25.5%) than boys (19.1%).
Studies show that bullying can occur amongst any gender, race, socio-economic class, and even age (Do you know a bully in adulthood? Yeah, me too). We also know that there is importance in understanding the role that gender stereotypes play in bullying. Gender identity can impact how children adapt and interact with their peers; gender stereotypes can influence bullying as they impact the socialization of children into gender roles.
Yes, even in 2021, young boys are still socialized to be strong and independent, while females are socialized to be sensitive and understanding. Children who don’t act according to their expected gender roles are at higher risk of bullying by their peers. [Read more…]