What's Going On Inside Mean Tweens' Heads?

Filed under: In The News, Social & Emotional Growth: Tweens, Behavior: Tweens, Research Reveals: Tweens, Social & Emotional Growth: Teens, Research Reveals: Teens

Researchers say mean boys will throw you in a locker, but mean girls are more likely to give you the stink eye. Credit: Corbis

This just in: Kids in late elementary school through junior high are mean.

And it doesn't matter if they're boys and girls. They're just pure, flat-out evil. Or they can be, anyway.

ScienceDaily.com reports researchers interviewed 33 kids ages 11 to 13 about their understanding of cruel and mean behavior, as well as their personal experiences on both the giving and receiving end of atomic wedgies, purple nurples, social snubs and withering remarks.

Boys and girls have similar experiences, Dr. Rhiarne Pronk, the clinical psychologist who led the study, tells ScienceDaily.

The research was part of Pronk's Ph.D thesis at Griffith University in Queensland, Australia. Her results were published in the Journal of Adolescent Research.

While boys and girls are much alike, she tells ScienceDaily, their modus operandi differ.

Girls generally form tight cliques and vote others off the island by giving the hairy eyeball or a knife in the back. Or they just refuse to acknowledge the victim's existence.

Boys, Pronk tells ScienceDaily, let you know exactly where you stand -- even if it's the inside of a locker.

"In boys, it was more about larger groups -- more direct and in-your-face and using teasing and other tactics such as exclusion from sporting games or teams," she adds.

Still, mean boys and girls have similar motives for being vile little so-and-sos, Pronk says.

"They understood issues about power and social dominance and manipulating friendships to increase social standing or acceptance," Pronk tells ScienceDaily. "Relational aggression can also be about jealousy, anger, revenge and insecurity."

So much for the bullies. But why does it seem that so many of their victims were born with "kick me" signs on their backs?

Pronk compiled a profile of the most likely targets of bullies. She tells ScienceDaily they're the kids who stand out. It could be because they lack socially-appealing characteristics (at least by junior high standards). These are your typical nerds, geeks, dorks, dweebs and other losers like Bill Gates.

However, Pronk adds, being too pretty, popular or talented can bring unwelcome attention, too.

Pronk tells the Web site it's normal for kids shivering at the edge of adolescence to experience friendship problems. Those challenges typically toughen them up and teach social skills, she adds.

However, she warns, frequent victims can acquire permanent scars.

"People can take the hurt through into their adult life, their workplaces and their romantic relationships," she tells the Web site.

Related: Workplace Fitness: Are You Being Bullied at Work?

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Start by teaching him that it is safe to do so.