Aggressive boys tend to gossip, spread rumours

September 16th, 2008 - 4:24 pm ICT by IANS  

Washington, Sep 16 (IANS) A new analysis based on nearly 150 studies of aggression in children and adolescents, has found that while boys are more aggressive than girls physically, they are the same in indirect attacks like gossiping, rumour mongering and intentionally isolating others.”These conclusions challenge the popular misconception that indirect aggression is a female form of aggression,” said Noel A. Card, assistant professor of family studies, University of Arizona and the study’s co-author.

The meta-analysis, based on combined studies of 74,000 children and adolescents in schools, looked at both direct aggression, defined as physical, and indirect aggression, which includes covert behaviour designed to damage another individual’s social standing in his or her peer group.

The myth that girls are more likely to be socially aggressive has persisted among teachers, parents, and even among researchers, because of social expectations and recent movies and books portraying girls as mean and socially aggressive.

Based on the analysis, the researchers suggest that children who carry out one form of aggression may be inclined to carry out the other form; this is seen more in boys than in girls.

They also found ties between both forms of aggression and adjustment problems. Specifically, direct aggression is related to problems like delinquency and ADHD-type symptoms, poor relationships with peers, and low prosocial behaviour such as helping and sharing.

Conversely, indirect aggression is related to problems like depression and low self-esteem, as well as higher prosocial behaviour - perhaps because a child must use prosocial skills to encourage peers to exclude or gossip about others.

The research, conducted by Card with colleagues at the Universities of North Carolina and Kansas, will appear in the September / October issue of Child Development.

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