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 Authors tackle 'Girl Bullying' in new book 



November 13, 2009

CONTACT: K.E. Schwab


Authors tackle 'Girl Bullying' in new book         


SLIPPERY ROCK, Pa. - It's not new, but it is growing: Girls bully. To combat the nationwide problem confronting school officials, parents and teens themselves, two Slippery Rock University faculty and two Duquesne University faculty have combined their research in "Understanding Girl Bullying - and What to Do About It; Strategies to Help Heal the Divide," a comprehensive guide that spotlights the issue and offers solutions.

           The authors are Jered Kolbert, an associate professor of counseling and development at SRU; Julaine Field, a former assistant professor of counseling and development at SRU now at the University of Colorado; Laura Crothers, an associate professor in the school psychology program in the department of counseling at Duquesne University; and Tammy Hughes, an associate professor at Duquesne who is also president of the Division of School Psychology of the American Psychological Association's, Division of School Psychology.

           "This book is one that gives counselors and other teachers a way to help break the cycle of social and relational aggression often seen between girls," Kolbert said. The work includes tools to help professionals heal the divide between girls by giving them tools to work through their problems both thoughtfully and constructively," he said. It also gives parents ideas of what to do when their daughter is a victim of bullying, and may help them identify factors within the family that increase tendencies to bully.

           Included in bullying behavior are such often seen tactics as telling one friend's secrets to others, giving a friend the "silent treatment," intentionally embarrassing a friend in public, being jealous of time spent with other friends, trying to control a friend's behavior or clothing style, failing to listen to a friend's ideas, threatening to end the friendship and talking about a friend behind her back.

           Additional signs of bullying include being demanding, hostile, rude and insensitive to the rights of others, frequently intimidating or being disrespectful or using a combination of passive and aggressive behaviors, such as being nice to a person, then talking about them behind their back, Kolbert said.

           He said the four authors realized girl bullying is as bad a behavior as traditional boy bullying, but often does not involve the physical bullying seen in boys. For this reason, girl bulling often goes undetected and unaddressed. "We see that as girls reach adolescence, they turn away from the physical bullying, but develop psychological strategies to reach the same results," he said.

           Kolbert said often girls are unaware of their bullying. "It is often instinctual. When we have talked with them we see that it is often their first recognition of their behavior. We see that they often have not thought much of the impact of what they were doing It is a natural, but unhealthy, human behavior."

           "For girls, the bulling behavior, often involves what we call 'relational aggression,' and often includes spreading lies about other girls, their friends or their girlfriend's boyfriends," he said.

           "In recent years, relational and social aggression, or bullying, among girls and female adolescent has gained national attention as a psychological issue worth exploring," the authors write in their introduction. "Parents, educators, counselors and extended family may be baffled at the psychological and emotional power friendships have over girls. Addition, the threat of losing these friendships can feel overwhelming to teens. When these peer connections are in jeopardy, particularly for girls, the process of surveying the damage, fixing the problem and monitoring the results can be all consuming."

           In Pennsylvania, all schools must have codes against bullying effective this year. "There are both long-term and short-term consequences of bullying, including academics, school avoidance, tardiness, lower self-esteem. Some of the effects last into adulthood, including low self-esteem, and, for males, it may mean difficulty in developing lasting relationships," Kolbert said. 

           Kolbert says their book includes a curriculum plan schools may want to consider to help students better understand bullying and help curtail its influence. "We covered the causes and characteristics of relational and social aggression and outline methods for assessment, prevention and intervention," he said.

           An entire chapter is devoted offers a "Goodwill Girls," a small-group curriculum designed to help school counselors educate adolescent females about bullying while providing them a constructive outlet to discuss these issues and try new ways to relate to one another and resolve conflict. These skills can be used throughout their entire lives," Kolbert said. 

           "One of our graduate students implemented the curriculum on campus last summer as part of a summer leadership camp program for girls," Kolbert said. "The data is incredibly promising."

           The work also looks at what girl bullying is, why it happens and what it looks like. "We offer counselors ways to measure it, and we give advice on what educators can do to help girls with these issues," Kolbert said.

           The text offers advice for dealing with parents, who may be unaware of their daughter's behaviors, or may be unwilling to clearly see a problem, or offer help in solving the issue. 

           Written primarily for school counselors, "Understanding Girl Bullying," is designed to blend academic, empirical and practical perspectives to answer questions of what relational and social aggression, is, why it happens and what it looks like behaviorally, how to measure it and what counselors, researchers and parents can do to help girls and adolescent females with these issues.                   

           "Everyone involved with a young woman's psychological, emotional, and physical safety needs in her learning environment will see that when her needs not being met, she will not be able to thrive or reach her potential," Kolbert said.

           He said in many cases, girls have found that bullying works as they learn to balance society's expectations for female behavior with their own needs for expressing or repressing anger, frustration and experiencing power.

           The book, published by Corwin of Thousand Oaks, Calif., is available at: and other booksellers.


Slippery Rock University is Pennsylvania's premier public residential university. Slippery Rock University provides students with a comprehensive learning experience that intentionally combines academic instruction with enhanced educational and learning opportunities that make a positive difference in their lives.

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