Tina Martin Debevec
Abstract of the Dissertation
Bullying among children and adolescents, particularly within the school setting, has drawn much attention in recent years as a reaction to an onslaught of high profile school violence in the 1990s. While much attention and research focused upon physical violence that was prevalent among male students, very little research covered indirect, relational, and social forms of aggression. Research into the covert manners of aggression that involved the manipulation of relationships revealed them to be salient among female students, demonstrating that female students were predominantly aggressive in a different manner than their male counterparts.
Psychoanalytic theories of attachment and aggression guide this research as a theoretical framework for interpreting social aggression as a form of bullying among adolescent female students. To better understand the influences of society upon the developing psyches of young females, which also encompass the influence of mothers, social media, and the hidden curriculum of schooling, psychoanalytic theories of attachment and aggression offer insight to the following questions: How do societal perceptions of the female gender lead to a prevalence of social aggression? What perpetuates social aggression as a form of bullying among female students? A detailed exploration of the conflicting societal perceptions and expectations placed upon female students is included. In addition, the increased use of social media adds another method of covert aggression to the repertoire of adolescent girls via cyberbullying.
Finally, a look at the hidden curriculum in schools indicates a reiteration of societal expectations for females, as well as a diminished focus upon relationships with students as teachers struggle to meet increasing academic demands.
The developing psyches of adolescent females are challenged by the conflicting societal perceptions of females, cyber-communications, as well as the hidden curriculum of schooling, all of which function as impediments to relationships among adolescent females.
Through socially aggressive means, girls have found an inconspicuous outlet through which to channel their aggression toward one another. Suggestions for facilitating change with the involvement of parents, bystanders, and educators are included for improving the relational attachments of adolescent female students in an effort to reduce the prevalence and impact of social aggression.