The issue of “mean girls” in our culture has been growing and expanding over the past several years. It happens in school, at work, in the movies, on our televisions, through technology and basically everywhere two or more people co-exist.
Recently, an article was written entitled Mean Girls Mellow with Age (except on TV), which stemmed from an article in the Washington Post. The article provided research conducted in 2009 by Centers for Disease Control where 9th through 12th graders took a survey on Relational Aggression and maturity. Another mention was a study conducted at a Southeastern University where 202 undergraduates took a survey and the findings indicated that freshmen were more aggressive where seniors started looking at the behavior as immature. Adult survivors who found their childhood abusers to be mature and nice people shared a couple of stories. One of the girls interviewed stated that she befriended her bully on Facebook and the bully wished her a Happy Birthday. “She was perfectly nice,” she stated. Another girl stated that her former tormentor would egg her house during the teen years. As an adult, the girl apologized and told her that her parents were divorcing at the time and was having a hard time herself so she took it out on the girl. “Her apology freed me to realize that we all suffer in those adolescent years,” she stated.
These stories above are good and heartwarming and I am glad these ladies were able to get the closure they needed. At the same time, it is important to understand that in some cases these abusers do not grow up and outgrow this behavior. As I deal with adults who survived this peer abuse as children, I have met some who have been able to go back and get the apologies they deserved. However, this is not always the case and not all bullies grow up. Some grow a lot worse and it is important to understand this. I know of cases where these adults are traumatized once again when finding these abusers on Facebook or anywhere else. In one case, a female bully sent a friend request to her former target on Facebook. The former target confronted the bully and let her know how her behavior left a life long effect. Instead of apologizing, the abuser started stalking and harassing this person on Facebook. There are other stories, but due to privacy and confidentiality, I am not at liberty to say anything else. Since this article came out and was making its way through the blogosphere, I have read comments and found one former abuser state she felt horrible and wanted to apologize to her former target. Other than that I am finding over 98% of the comments to these blogs to disagree with these findings.
Folks, mean girls can also grow worse. Yes, at face value they are nice, polite and appear to have matured over the years. If they had completely matured, why are there problems in the workplace with these individuals? I do a lot of observing online and I watch females in their 30s and older. On message boards I see cliques form where other members are ostracized from the group. On Facebook and other places, I see people interact with some and completely ignore others in their posts. In the world away from technology, women come together and gossip; hold gatherings where some are invited and others are excluded. The silent treatment exists and the person is completely ignored. These adults still seek out people who are like them and whom they believe “fit in” to their world. This study looked at high school and college females who are still growing up. Why did they not poll adults who are out in the world and have personalities that are set for life?
Please, do not take everything at face value. Not every mean girl outgrows this behavior. Psychology is subjective and there is much more to this than we are led to believe. It is vital to know these differences.
* First published on Technorati http://technorati.com/lifestyle/article/mean-girls-some-grow-worse/