As Rachel Simmons puts it in her book Odd Girl Out, “Covert aggression isn’t just about not getting caught; half of it is looking like you’d never mistreat someone in the first place,” (2002, 23). This type of behaviour is called relational aggression, and it is more commonly attributed to females than males.
Relational aggression is psychological (social or emotional) aggression between people in relationships, whereby “the group” is used as a weapon to hurt others. This can take the form of gossip, rumours, social exclusion, manipulative friendships, and even negative body language. Relational aggression is devastating to the self-image of the person who is the target of this behaviour because it undermines some of the most significant personal needs and goals of youth: the need for social inclusion, a positive sense of esteem and identity, and the development of meaningful friendships.
This information includes scenarios that highlight the impact of relational aggression on children and youth, an overview of its causes and effects, tips on how to identify when it is happening, and a summary of strategies that can be used to address it. This information is designed for teachers, parents, and anyone who is concerned about this problem.
Relational aggression isn’t just “girls being girls,” and it isn’t a normal part of growing up. It can happen in classrooms and playgrounds, at home or on the Internet. It starts at an early age, but it is by no means limited to youth and can occur among adults and in the workplace. As such, relational aggression is everyone’s problem. Let’s learn how to deal with it.