SWPA logo
    SWPA Image Scenes from SWPA 2015
in Wichita, KS
(more pictures in the
conference photo album).

About SWPA
Home / Mission
Origins & History
Governance & Bylaws
Contact Officers
Officer Guidelines
Donate to SWPA
SWPA e-Newsletters
Annual Conventions
Upcoming Convention
Convention Registration
Previous Conventions
Future Conventions
Psychology Organizations
Psych Depts in SW Region
Professional Development
Member / Non-Member
Membership Categories
Create New Profile
Edit Profile
Pay Dues and Registration
Submit Abstract

SWPA States

Gender Differences in Bullying and Aggression
    Shannon Raye Perry    

According to Olweus (1995) bullying can be defined as deliberate, recurring behavior that is intended to cause harm to a victim whose power is lower than that of the bully. Bullying comes in two basic forms: physical aggression and social /relational aggression. There is a misconception in the literature that boys engage in physical aggression more than girls, whereas girls engage in social aggression more than boys (e.g., Crick, 1997). Based on theories of evolutionary psychology (Pellegrini & Long, 2004), however, I predicted that boys would score higher than girls in both bullying and physical aggression (Hypotheses 1 and 2), whereas girls would score higher in social aggression than in physical aggression (Hypothesis 3). These hypotheses are based on the idea that male genes survive largely because of physical dominance, whereas female genes survive more by the social skills involved in securing dominant mates.
The participants were sixth grade volunteers (n=92, 55 males) and their teachers (n=12, 8 females) from a middle school in central Arkansas that is predominantly Caucasian. A consent form was obtained before data collection. Consent for students was provided by a parent or legal guardian. The student data included ratings for each classmate on bullying and related behaviors (0 = Never, 1 = Sometimes, 3 = Often). Teachers gave ratings for all their students on physical aggression (e.g., pushing and shoving) and social aggression (e.g., excluding others) on the same scale.
All three gender related hypotheses were supported. Boys scored higher than girls on both bullying (boys M=.38, girls M=.18) and physical aggression (boys M=.18, girls M=.05), t(90) = 2.76, p < .007, eta squared = .08; t(90) = 3.01, p < .003, eta squared = .09, respectively. Furthermore, girls scored higher in social aggression (M=.25) than in physical aggression (M=.05), t(36) = 3.85, p < .0001, eta squared = .29.
Although not predicted by evolutionary theory, I found that boys were rated higher in social aggression (M=.34) than physical aggression (M=.18), t(54) = 4.03, p < .0001, eta squared = .23. However, boys (M=.34) and girls (M=.25) did not differ in social aggression, t(90) = 1.05, ns.
Physical size and strength have survival value according to evolutionary theory (Pellegrini & Long, 2004). Because of this, males naturally compete with other males for status. Thus, I predicted that boys would be rated higher than girls in both bullying and physical aggression. Females also compete, but their competition tends to be indirect, as their genes have a better chance for survival if they secure dominant mates. Therefore, I predicted that girls would be rated higher in social aggression than physical aggression. All of these hypotheses were supported. However, physical aggression does not preclude social aggression; I also found that boys were rated higher in social aggression than physical aggression. Perhaps because of widely-reported crackdowns in schools on bullying and physical aggression in recent years (Borgwald & Theixos, 2013), boys’ aggression has shifted from physical to more social.

Privacy Statement
For website information, contact the Webmaster
Copyright © 2001-2015 Southwestern Psychological Association.
A grant to SWPA from the Science Directorate of the American Psychological Association to support the development and dissemination of an updated history of SWPA is gratefully acknowledged.