Everyone knows that girls pass mean notes and use the silent treatment when they bully, while for boys, it’s as simple as a punch in the face, right? Not quite.
The facts about girl and boy bullying might surprise you.
According to statistics from PREVNet, a national network against bullying, there are more similarities than differences between boys and girls when they bully.
Boys tend to bully more frequently and more physically than girls, but when it comes to social bullying, boys and girls bully at about the same levels. However, that social bullying may look different between the genders.
While boys who bully are sometimes not part of the in-crowd, girls who bully are often powerful
in their peer groups, said Wendy Craig, a psychology professor at Queen’s University and scientific co-director of PREVNet.
“That type of bullying is about hurting relationships, which are really central to girls’ identity,” Craig explained. Peer-group bullying can also make girls who are bullied less likely to report and retaliate because they want to regain acceptance.
“Boys are not as likely to have that popularity component,” said Craig. “They are more likely to do the direct face-to-face kinds of things, whereas girls are more likely to be more anonymous or indirect,” she said.
Male social bullying might look a little different, agreed Gurvinder Singh, an adviser for the Canadian Red Cross on international violence prevention.
“It might be on the sports field playing football … but a lot of the same dynamics are occurring,” Singh said.
Craig said that we often make the mistake of overlooking social bullying because it’s harder to detect and address than physical bullying.
With social bullying, “it’s difficult to get witnesses to corroborate that story,” said Rob Frenette, executive director and co-founder of Bullying Canada. Witnesses often fear retaliation, he said.
Whether bullying is social or physical and perpetrated by boys or girls, bystanders play a critical role. Singh said children who bully can be just as influenced by their peers as those who are being bullied, so bystanders should make it known that they won’t tolerate the bullying.
Singh said when peers intervene, bullying often stops immediately.