Monday, October 11, 2010

"Mean-Girl" Bullying -- in Kindergarden?

Is "mean-girl" bullying starting younger?  This New York Times piece says . . . maybe:
Mean-girl behavior, typically referred to by professionals as relational or social aggression and by terrified parents as bullying, has existed for as long as there have been ponytails to pull and notes to pass (today’s insults are texted instead). But while the calculated round of cliquishness and exclusion used to set in over fifth-grade sleepover parties, warfare increasingly permeates the early elementary school years.

“Girls absolutely exclude one another in kindergarten,” said Michelle Anthony, a psychologist and co-author of the new book “Little Girls Can Be Mean.” When her own daughter was manipulated by a “friend” into racing down a slide booby-trapped with mud, making it appear to a group of boys as though she’d soiled her pants, Dr. Anthony was taken aback. “You don’t expect to run into that level of meanness in a 7-year-old.”

But at a time when teenage cyber-bullying is making headlines, parents fear that the onset of bullying behavior is trickling down. According to a new Harris survey of 1,144 parents nationwide, 67 percent of parents of 3- to 7-year-olds worry that their children will be bullied; parents of preschoolers and grade-school-age children are significantly more likely to worry than parents of teenagers. Such fears may be justified. One recent survey of 273 third graders in Massachusetts found that 47 percent have been bullied at least once; 52 percent reported being called mean names, being made fun of or teased in a hurtful way; and 51 percent reported being left out of things on purpose, excluded from their group of friends or completely ignored at least once in the past couple of months.
The article admits that there are few longitudinal studies to answer whether bullying is starting younger, or if it is just recognized in younger kids by more-attuned parents and teachers, or if it is an exaggeration of hyper-vigilant helicopter parents.  The article is well worth a read, and includes some exploration of what might be causing mean-girl bullying to start younger.


Wendy said...

Yes, it is. Cliches were formed at age four at my daughter's ballet--funny, a direct reflection of the moms sitting in the room.

Madeline has already had hatred sent her way as has several of her friends. It seems high school has hit the kiddie pool.

a Tonggu Momma said...

Thanks for this, Malinda! My daughter just discovered a few weeks ago that two girls from our neighborhood spent all last year telling the girls in their kindergarten class, "don't play with the Tongginator because she's mean." Umm... those two girls have been rejecting my daughter since they were all two-years-old, so how can they even know if my daughter is mean or not?

Anonymous said...

I read this article and felt that the author glossed over something important: my experience is that the people most likely to feel bullied ARE bullies. I realize this isn't always the case, but I have noticed at our school that parents and children who are insecure and feel constantly assaulted tend to lash out and assault others. I have an interesting bullying anecdote that relates to this blog: I am white (although neither my spouse nor my children are white) and a school parent (insultingly) confided to me that she feared her son would be bullied because he is white (1% of the kids at our school identify as caucasian). Her son is the worst bully in the class!! He disrupts class with temper tantrums, annoys the kids sitting near him, teases incessantly, swings his backpack around to intentionally hit people, AND IS CONSTANTLY ACCUSING EVERYONE OF ATTACKING HIM (like when another kid accidentally steps on his foot). I have noticed that other forms of bullying (girls creating cliques and excluding other girls) usually involve insecure kids and families who are quick to accuse others of bullying. I wonder if this is other folks' experience, as well.