Hands in the air if you've been personally victimized by Regina George. *raises hand* Okay, not the Queen of the Plastics herself, but I'm sure we've all had a Regina George type in our lives at one point or another. But bullying isn't just behind-the-back, lunch table heckling anymore. Kids have smartphones, which means they have social media—making it even easier to pick on the other kids. The good news? There may be a cure for "mean girls."
Researchers at the University of Missouri-Columbia developed a 10 week, reform school style program called Growing Interpersonal Relationships Through Learning and Systemic Supports (GIRLSS). GIRLSS brought together middle school girls, aged 12 to 15, to test ways to reduce "relational aggression," or the nonphysical type of mean girl bullying like gossiping and exclusion.
Participants in the GIRLSS intervention met once a week for a 70 minute session. Each session involved a variety of activities, such as group discussions, role-playing, and journaling. Parents of the students also participated in their own workshops to learn ways to deal with their child's behavior.
Unsurprisingly, it worked: Counselors and teachers noticed that the students' aggressive behaviors had decreased after the intervention. Now, the University of Missouri researchers hope to expand the GIRLSS program into more schools, and keep reducing relational aggression in young girls—although I can't help but wonder if a cake filled with rainbows and smiles would work, too.
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Image via Everett Collection