Educational Intervention Decreases Mean Girls’ Relational Aggression

Originally published in Bench to Bedside, the CHOP Research monthly publication

I edited this article based in part on a CHOP press release and in part on a blog post published by the investigator.


The “Mean Girls” phenomenon is not just the subject of fiction. Relational aggression, such as using gossip and social exclusion to harm others, is all too common among preadolescent and adolescent girls. A new study from The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia suggests that educational interventions including problem-solving skills and leadership opportunities can help, with lasting effects.

“As a psychologist and researcher with a particular interest in bullying, I am always interested in digging deeper into the ‘why,’” wrote Stephen Leff, PhD, in a blog post about the study, which he led. “Why is relational aggression — which involves the manipulation of social standing or reputations through gossip and social exclusion — so predominant among girls? Why is it associated with detrimental long-term outcomes for victims such as high levels of anxiety and depression? And, beyond the ‘why,’ how can we develop and test interventions that can combat this pervasive type of school violence, before it has a chance to become entrenched?”

The study, published in the journal Psychology of Violence, provides a partial answer to that last question.

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