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Cut to the Quick: The Consequences of Relational Aggression Among Our Sons & Daughters

Banny,Adrienne_hsWe’ve all heard “mean girl” stories and many of us probably have lived them. But the social rejection and humiliation kids inflict on each other is not unique to girls; in fact, this week’s Mom Enough guest cites evidence that relational aggression is equally common among boys and girls. Whatever the gender of the children involved, being on the receiving end can be devastating. And as wrong as it seems, there often are rewards for the perpetrators in terms of popularity and social status. As researcher Adrienne Banny attests, it will take a concerted effort by parents, teachers and other caring adults to turn around this very disturbing trend!


What has been your experience with relational aggression, either in your own life or that of your children? How did you deal with it? Share your thoughts in our REPLY space below!


For more information on longitudinal studies of relational aggression at the U of M, click here.

For the Institute of Child Development at the U of M, click here.

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  1. carey on November 26, 2013

    GREAT show–my son is in Pre-K and comes home with these phrases all the time: “if you do this for me, I’ll let you kiss me all day” or “invite you to my bday party” or fill in the blank with something he thinks I’ll enjoy. I hate it! Thanks for tackling this topic, Moms Enough!

  2. Jill on December 19, 2013

    My son is in 8th grade and really struggling with teammates on his hockey team. They are continually “teasing” him but pushing it past the teasing limit. He will often just put his head down because he doesn’t know what to say and now they will push about that and seem to enjoy getting that reaction out of him. He is asking me questions like, “Why do I do things right and they get all the friends?”
    The coach will often use him for a model because he does do things right and is a hard working always in games and in practices. This also leads to more “attacking” from the kids.
    I have talked to the school counselor, but he really doesn’t want me to do much, they are his teammates and hockey is his thing, he loves it and wants to just play.


  3. Marti Erickson on December 20, 2013

    Jill, we asked our guest Adrienne Banny if she would like to comment and her response is below. We hope this is helpful.

    “It is difficult to make specific recommendations with so little information; however, there are some great resources online. For example, Children’s Hospitals and Clinics of Minnesota recently released a report on bullying that includes information for parents who suspect their child is the target of bullying:


    Page 16 includes some tips about effective action. I think one point that often goes overlooked is that well-meaning parents can sometimes make the situation worse. Children don’t always want the bully to be punished, but rather, just want the bullying to stop.

    Another thing that stands out in this parent’s comment is that the child seems to be responding passively, which could result in his being identified by his peers as an easy target. It is important to remember that one can be assertive without being aggressive.

    I’m also curious about whether the coach is aware of the bullying issue.