Reducing Relational Aggression in Children

According to a study published by the Violence Prevention Initiative at The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia suggests that teaching young girls problem-solving and leadership skills can help reduce relational aggression among young girls. Relational aggression refers to using such tactics as gossip and social exclusion to harm other.

Relational aggression is common among girls, or at least the most common form of aggression that thy resort to, and it seems to be especially common in inner-city and otherwise under-resourced schools. For this reason, the study focused on African American girls between third and fifth grade, and focused on a specific aggression prevention program called Friend to Friend.

Of course, relational aggression isn’t limited to African-American students, poor students, or girls, and these kinds of tactics are used all the time, and across various categories, regardless of age, race, or any other factor. Adults do this too, and so it behooves schools to find ways to combat these actions. If programs like Friend to Friend can work for young African American girls, they can work for anyone.

Provided, of course, that we acknowledge the problem, and work to undermine these tendencies among young children. The former might be harder than the latter, as things like gossip or social exclusion aren’t as easy to spot, and aren’t as obvious as more vocal or physical forms of bullying. But, these tactics are used to belittle others, establish social dominance, and are forms of bullying, which makes it harder for children to succeed in school and can lead to other relational problems for victims and abusers down the line.

As always, of course, instituting practices to deal with these issues will prove difficult because is will be read by most as something new that has to be added to the curriculum and which would likely cost money. The rallying cry of anti-education. But we could stop a lot of violence, emotional and physical, long before it happens by putting more focus on teaching these skills early.

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