29 MAY 2009
It was once believed that female aggression did not warrant academic investigation due to its rare occurrence (Buss, 1961). The study of aggression and social relationships among females has also been neglected due to a predilection among researchers to study behaviours among males. Although rates of violent crime among youth have decreased from 29,181 in 1994 to 26,315 in 1998, female adolescent crime rates for violent offences have increased at twice the rate when compared to adolescent boys over the past decade (Reitsma-Street, 2004; Statistics Canada, 1999).
Indeed, estimating rates of aggression among females and males can be complicated by defining what is considered aggressive behaviour. Research suggests mixed conclusions with respect to the incidence rates of aggression when gender is included in the equation. According to Strayer and Noel (1986), noted differences between the sexes may be somewhat misleading as they fail to acknowledge the greater tendency for rough and tumble play among boys. Traditional beliefs that girls live in a world of "sugar and spice" have faded as research has shown that girls do engage in social forms of aggression. From preschool through adolescence, peer relations for females entail a covert world of exclusion, gossip, and relational attacks (Björkqvist et al., 1992; Crick, Bigbee, and Howes, 1996; Crick, Casas, and Mosher, 1997; Crick, Casas, and Ku, 1999) with significant increases during late childhood and early adolescence (Lagerspetz and Björkqvist, 1994; Leschied, Cummings, Van Brunschot, Cunningham, and Saunders, 2001).
The aggressive behaviour dynamics that tend to be common among females have been referred to as indirect aggression (Feshbach, 1969; Björkqvist et al., 1992), relational aggression (Crick and Nelson, 2002), and social aggression (Cairns, Cairns, Neckerman, Ferguson, and Gariepy, 1989; Galen and Underwood, 1997; Underwood, 2003). Throughout this paper, reference to aggression within female friendship groups will include definitions provided by all three bodies of research for indirect, relational, and social aggression; however, the term social aggression will be used in order to maintain parsimony.
JENNIFER CLARKE AND SUSAN LOLLIS
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