Mean Girls Mellow With Age (Except on TV)

Filed under: Tween Culture, Teen Culture

mean girls

A high school mean girl can become a decent adult. Credit: Michael Gibson, AP Photo/Paramount Pictures

Despite the nasty antics of Bravo's Real Housewives TV series, not every bullying, backstabbing, high school brat grows up to be a Botox Mean Girl.

Turns out in real life, queen bees who thrived on belittling and tormenting their wannabe peers in high school can grow up to be decent human beings, according to the Washington Post.

Of course that's if they're not tapping into their inner mean girl to act like an immature high schooler on TV, or acting like a nihilistic cheerleader and running for public office, Rosalind Wiseman, author of "Queen Bees and Wannabes" and an expert on teen and young adult behavior. Wiseman's book was the basis for the 2004 movie "Mean Girls," Newsweek reports.

"In our culture," Wiseman tells Newsweek, "we get rewarded for mean-girl behavior, so we see adults behaving in ways that we typically assign to teens ... Getting attention is the most important thing."

But, in real-life mean girls do mature and chill out eventually, according to the Post.

In fact, to assume that all women exhibit mean girl behavior is the meanest cut of all, Jess Weiner, author and columnist for Seventeen magazine, tells the Post, saying she knows firsthand.

Weiner says that, as a large girl in middle school, she was bullied repeatedly. But at age 28, when she appeared on "Oprah" for her book, "A Very Hungry Girl," she received an e-mail from her former tormenter apologizing. The woman wrote that her parents were divorcing at the time and that her mother's boyfriend was molesting her, Weiner tells the Post.

"Her apology freed me to realize that we all suffer in those adolescent years," Weiner tells the Post. "No one leaves that period of time unscathed. But we can learn and grow from it and move on to lead engaged, loving, productive lives."


Evidence that mean girls mellow with age also can be found in a new study, which finds that the percentage of girls who bullied declines from grades 9 through 12, according to the latest Youth Risk Behavior survey, which was published in 2009 by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Same thing happens in college, according to researcher Rebecca Goldberg, an assistant professor of clinical mental health counseling at Mississippi State University. In 2008, she interviewed 202 female undergraduates on what is called "relational aggression." She reports in her dissertation that freshmen were the most aggressive, seniors the least. Several seniors, she tells the Post, "looked back four years and said, 'Oh, I was a terrible brat back then.' "

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