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Category: relational aggression
  • Children, especially girls, begin to withhold friendship as a weapon as early as three years old.

    Parents are often startled to realize that relational aggression — using the threat of removing friendship, ostracism, and other forms of social exclusion — can appear in children as young as three years old. For children that young, the experience of being pushed away by a friend can be utterly baffling, provoking anxiety at daycare or preschool. Moreover, as parents and educators observe these more subtle forms of bullying, it’s becoming clear that they require as much attention as physical aggression. In an excellent piece in the Wall Street Journal, Laura Barbour, a counselor at an Oregon elementary school, observes, “Kids forget about scuffles on the playground but they don't forget about unkind words or being left out.” Continue reading Continue reading

  • "The mean-girl thing is happening much sooner than everyone realizes."

    Parents often think that relational aggression — including social rejection, manipulation, and exclusionary cliques — starts in middle school. For writer Carol Kaufman's daughter, it started in the fourth grade, these types of bullying often start at even younger ages. "The mean-girl thing is happening much sooner than everyone realizes," her elementary school's counselor told her.

    Bullying in childhood can have a lasting impact, says Catherine Bagwell, a professor of psychology at Emory University who studies children’s social development: it is "associated with depression and anxiety and social withdrawal and low self-esteem and academic problems." So it's important to tackle the problem early on, whether your daughter is the one being targeted or excluded, the one leading the pack, or one of the bystanders who's not sure how to handle the situation. Continue reading Continue reading

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