Andrea Velasquez & Lara Perry


Sex Differences Panel Presentation Summary


            The article that we chose to analyze was a study conducted by Laurence Owens, Rosalyn Shute and Phillip Slee entitled “I’m In You’re Out…,” which explains the reason’s for teenage girls’ use of indirect aggression. In the past it has been observed that girls use a indirect form of aggression far more often that boys. Previous research has concluded “girls use more indirect forms of aggression than boys because of the nature of girl’s peer and friendship groups,” (Owens et al. 2000, p.20). It is assumed that because girls are more relationally oriented than boys, girls tend to use forms of aggression, which damage the friendship. These forms of aggression can be gossiping, avoiding, ostracizing etc. The purpose of this particular article is to “investigate more directly the reasons that teenage girls give for using indirect aggression toward peers,” (Owens et al. 2000, p.20).

            Previous research has found that boy’s friendships groups are larger; therefore girls have more intimate relationships with their friends. Because girls are more likely to have more intimate friendships, girls are also more likely to classify their same sex friends into social categories. These close, categorized friendships create more opportunities for indirect social aggression. Indirect social aggression is defined by the researchers as “ a kind of social manipulation: the aggressor manipulates others to attack the victim, or, by other means, makes use of the social structure in order to harm the target person, without being personally involved in attack,” (Owens et al. 2000, p. 21).

            Several different reasons have been proposed as to why girls use indirect aggression tactics. In  1994 Bijorkquvist found that indirect forms of aggression are linked to social intelligence, which correlates to the findings that girls use indirect aggression more frequently than boys because girls mature socially more quickly than boys. In 1992 Osterman and Kaukiainen reported that the social structure of girls’ peer groups makes indirect aggression most effective. In 1995 Crick and Grotpeter established what they call “relational aggression” which is designed to “harm others through damage to their peer relationships or the threat of such damage,” (Owens et al. 2000, p. 22). This makes sense that the best way to hurt girls is to damage their friendships or feelings within their peer groups. Recent research has shown that girls’ use of indirect aggression is very hurtful, and girls feel more emotionally distressed by relational aggression than boys. These victims of relational aggression are shown to have higher levels of anxiety, social avoidance and loneliness.

            In this particular study focus group and pair interviews were conducted during 45-minute class periods with 54 teenage girls randomly selected (ages 15-16). Key teachers were also interviewed for their opinions on the range of issues. The teachers chosen were those who are said to be well liked and respected by the girls. Four types of criteria, credibility, fittingness, audibility and conformability judged the “rigor of study”. “Credibility is achieved when the people involved in the study can recognize the descriptions of human experience as their own,” (Owens et al. 2000, p. 26). Fittingness is achieved when the findings are able to fit into outside contexts. For instance, can the teenage girls and teachers that were not included in the study recognize their own experiences through the findings of the study? Audibility is achieved when another researcher is able to follow the decision trail used in the study. Conformability is achieved when credibility, fittingness, and audibility are achieved. Each of these types of criteria used to judge the rigor of study was achieved in the present study allowing the researchers to come to several conclusions.

            The results show the reasons for girls’ use of indirect forms of aggression. The first and most common response was “alleviating boredom/creating excitement.” It simply gave the girls something to do. The girls believed that boys were more active during their free time (playing sports, games etc.) and thus did not spend a lot of time standing around talking about one another. Girls felt intimidated to join in these activities because they felt as if they would be “out played” by the boys. The second category was friendship and group processes. This describes the girls’ use of indirect aggression as a symbol of their desire to be a member of a group or close friendship. These symbols of indirect aggression are often portrayed in exclusive parties or invitations. The next category is group inclusion, which is used to cement their place in the group. Gossiping or storytelling is a way to bind intimacy in the group members, while ensuring that others stay out. The teachers who were questioned believed that the depth of the girls’ friendship and their aggression is linked. The fourth category was belonging to the right group. Girls and the groups they associate with have different levels of status, a type of relational hierarchy that becomes important. This popularity of the groups seemed to be linked to outside status, particularly how many boys you knew. The next category is self-protection. Indirect aggressive behavior can result in the “desire to avoid being the next victim and to protect one’s own position in the group,” (Owens, 2000, p. 34). The next category is jealousy. Girls typically feel very protective of their friends, physically appearance, grades and boys, which all result in aggression. The last category that produces aggression is revenge or retaliation. “Often this retaliation is related to bitching that has been initiated behind a girl’s back” or “in response to being left out of an activity or being ignored,” (Owens, 2000, p. 37).

            In conclusion, several categories contribute to girls’ use of indirect aggression. These categories are revenge/retaliation, jealousy, self-protection, belonging to the right group, group inclusion, group processes, and lastly alleviating boredom/creating excitement. All of these categories contribute to indirect aggression, however, alleviating boredom and creating excitement seemed to be the most influencing.


Andrea Velasquez & Lara Perry


Panel Presentation Outline


“I’m In You’re Out”


I. More indirect forms of aggression seem to be more prominent in girls.

A.     Females use more indirect forms because they are socialized to do so

1.      The nature of girl’s peer and friendship groups

2.      Girls are more relationally oriented than boys

B.     Girls use aggression that damages the friendship

1.      Gossiping

2.      Ostracism

3.      Breaking confidences

II. Why girls tend to use indirect forms of aggression

A.     Indirect aggression= ignoring, avoiding, refusal of newcomers

B.     Boys friendship groups are larger/girls have more intimate friendships

C.     Girls are able to classify same-sex peers into categories

1.close friendships increase opportunities for indirect social aggression

2. Girls are discouraged from direct aggression

D.     Study is cross cultural

E.      Girls use what is called relational aggression-“harming others through damage to their peer relationships or the threat of such damage”

1.      Girls hurt other girls through behaviors that damage friendships or feelings of inclusion in peer groups

2.      Girls indirect aggression is very hurtful

3.      Girls feel more hurt by relational aggression than direct aggression

4.      Victims of relational aggression showed higher levels of anxiety, social avoidance and loneliness

5.      Teenage years is when most relational aggression occurs

III. Method of study (Judging the rigor of the study)

A.     Credibility

1.      Achieved when the people involved in study can recognize the descriptions of human experience as their own

2.      Study achieved credibility

B.     Fittingness

1.      Findings “fit” into contexts outside the study situation

2.      Do teenage girls and teachers who were not included in the study recognize this study’s representations of the girl’s peer conflicts as fitting their own experience?

3.      The study achieved fittingness

C.     Audibility

1.      Can another researcher follow the decision trail used in the study

2.      The study achieved audibility

D.     Conformability

1.      Achieved when credibility, fittingness and audibility are established

2.      The study achieved conformability

IV. Results of the study (why girls use indirect aggression)

A.     Alleviating boredom/creating excitement

1.      This was the most common response to the question

2.      Girls believe that boys are more active during free time at school so that they don’t generally stand or sit around talking about each other

3.      Girls don’t participate in these activities because they feel they would be “paid out” by the boys

4.      The teachers agree with the alleviating boredom/creating excitement theory

B.     Friendship and group processes

1.      Girls aggression is said to be an artifact of their desire for membership of the group or for close friendship status

a.       Attention seeking

i.                     Parties/invitations to parties used as a form of exclusion

b.      Group inclusion “I’m in you’re out”

i.                     Gain group acceptance or cement their place in group

ii.                   Gossiping/story telling helps bind friendship intimacy for those who are in and against those that are out

iii.                  Girls want popularity and power

iv.                 Teachers believe there is a correlation between the depth of a girls friendship and their aggression

c.       Belonging to the right group: “They’re total losers”

i.                     Aggression can stem from girl’s groups having different levels of status

ii.                   Groups are arranged in a sort of hierarchy

iii.                  Popularity of group seems to be related to social life outside of school/knowing lot’s of guys

d.      Self-Protection: “I’m Alright, Jill”

i.                     Aggressive behaviors result from the desire to avoid being the next victim/protect one’s position in the group

ii.                   Girls don’t defend other girls because they fear that doing so will make them next target

iii.                  Girls may join the victimization as a sense of relief that it is not them as the target

e.       Jealousy: “She’s taken my friend”

i.                     Jealousy occurs over physical appearance, school grades

ii.                   Jealousy is expressed through envious chatting behind the other’s back

iii.                  Competition over boys is a source of conflict

iv.                 Teachers believe that aggression comes from changing alliances between girls (ex. Becoming friends with someone else)

f.        Revenge/Retaliation: “She bitched about us, so…”

i.                     Girls try to get back at each other for talking about each other behind others backs

ii.                   Revenge can occur if one person is left out of an activity or ignored

iii.                  Teachers agree revenge has a role in aggression