For a long time, it was thought that boys were different in their bullying because they were more aggressive than girls. After all, there were more male bullies than female bullies. However, researchers today have come to realize that girls can be just as aggressive; they just don't have to throw punches to get their points across. Girls practice relational aggression, which means they play subtle mind games that are just as damaging to the victims as a punch in the gut might be to a boy. Relational aggression in girls can include spreading rumors, telling secrets, spewing insults and excluding others from social events. Female bullies tend to be popular girls, while those they bully are often targets because others are jealous of them; it's thought they won't fight back; they're perceived as "different" in one way or another; they hit puberty early; or they have a disability [source: Office on Women's Health].
Interestingly, female bullying seems to be starting at an earlier age these days. Girls bullying each other isn't usually a phenomenon associated with elementary school, but today bullying in girls is being witnessed as early as kindergarten. A 2010 government program targeting bullying heard from its dozens of partner organizations that bullying was indeed starting sooner than expected in children. Those in charge of the program acknowledge that "girl relational bullying" had thus far gone relatively unpublicized [source: New York Times].
Male bullies, meanwhile, come from all social groups. Their bullying is, of course, most often physical, with fights being the norm. They've typically been thought to have low self-esteem, not many friends and troubled home lives. And while that may still be true in many cases, researchers today are seeing many bullies behaving somewhat like gang leaders, with a posse of children to do their bidding, and bullying. So it turns out some boy bullies are more socially skilled than once thought. Their reasons for bullying tend to revolve around anger as well as a home environment that might include domestic violence, or at least parental neglect. They don't tend to fare much better in adulthood, as crime, drug abuse and troubled employment history can become factors [source: WebMD].
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