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NCJ Number: 203315 Find in a Library
Title: Who's Who in the Pecking Order?: Aggression and 'Normal Violence' in the Lives of Girls and Boys
Journal: British Journal of Criminology  Volume:43  Issue:4  Dated:Autumn 2003  Pages:710-728
Author(s): Coretta Phillips
Date Published: 2003
Page Count: 19
Type: Report (Study/Research)
Format: Article
Language: English
Country: United Kingdom
Annotation: This review of the research literature from various disciplines that have studied violence among youth focused on the prevalence of such violence in schools and local neighborhoods for both boys and girls; the functions that violence serves for both girls and boys; and the "normalization" of aspects of abuse, harassment, and violence in the lives of youth.
Abstract: In addition to reviewing the relevant research literature, this article drew heavily on a small, exploratory study of girls' aggression and violence conducted in the early 1990's. Taken together, research shows that aggression and violence are not rare occurrences in the lives of young people, although the violent behavior apparently is committed by a small minority. Although girls are apparently less involved in violence as victims and perpetrators, their involvement in physically aggressive behavior is apparently more frequent than previous research suggests. The exploratory study described in this article examined the extent to which the use of physical aggression was prevalent in the lives of girls and young women, to the extent of being regarded as "normal" and acceptable behavior. The study involved semistructured interviews with 31 young women who were attending a "further-education" college in South London in the early 1990's. The women were asked to recall their secondary school and college experiences as victims, witnesses, and perpetrators of aggressive and violent behavior. The young women interviewed reported that school, for the most part, had been a reasonably trouble-free and enjoyable experience. Notwithstanding the positive experiences of the young women as a whole, however, the interviews revealed a backdrop of aggressive behavior among the girls at school based on a social order that included leaders with a reputation for being powerful, tough, and aggressive. This group of girls bullied other girls with verbal and physical aggression, primarily against girls identified as being in the lower echelons of the school's social hierarchy. The "pecking order" of the social hierarchy was thus maintained through the use of physical aggression and violence by those who aspired to control the behavior and status of other girls. Eight of the 31 young women interviewed admitted bullying other students at school, both through verbal and physical aggression. Overall, the research reviewed in this article portrays a picture of aggressive encounters between girls and boys within the dynamic of a social "pecking order." Fighting by both girls and boys was a regular occurrence in school, constituting "normal" behavior. Girls' aggressive behavior was apparently not perceived as deviant behavior by other girls, but was, in fact, admired. Implications of these findings for theory, policy, and practice are discussed. 96 references
Main Term(s): Juvenile delinquency factors
Index Term(s): Aggression; Bullying; Female deviance; Male female offender comparisons; Violence causes; Violent females; Violent juvenile offenders
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