Bullying has many faces. It can be physical or verbal. The kind Allie suffered and that is fleshed out in Ludwig’s book is called relational aggression, a phrase coined only nine years ago.
This perhaps more subversive form of bullying is defined as the use of relationships to directly or indirectly manipulate and hurt others, Ludwig says. She adds it has two main components: an imbalance of power and the intent to harm.
Though a relational aggression episode can occur over and over, it also can be a one-time event, according to Jennifer Ruh Linder, professor of psychology at Linfield College in McMinnville, Ore.
“[Relational aggression] is putting conditions on a friendship, and it starts early,” says Ludwig. “You’ve heard of conditional love; this is conditional friendship.”
7 Common Roles Girls Play in Cliques
1. The Queen Bee: Through a combination of charisma, force, money, looks, will and manipulation, this girl reigns supreme over the other girls and weakens their friendships with others, thereby strengthening her own power and influence.
2. The Side Kick: She notices everything about the Queen Bee, because she wants to be her. She will do everything the Queen Bee says. The Queen Bee, as her best friend, makes her feel popular and included.
3. The Floater: She has friends in different groups and can move freely among them. She has influence over other girls but doesn't use it to make them feel bad.
4. The Torn Bystander: She's constantly conflicted about doing the right thing and her allegiance to the clique. As a result, she's the one most likely to be caught in the middle of a conflict between two girls or two groups of girls.
5. The Pleaser/Wannabe/Messenger: She will do anything to be in the good graces of the Queen Bee and the Sidekick. When two powerful girls, or two powerful groups of girls, are in a fight, she is the go-between. However, the other girls eventually turn on her as well. She'll enthusiastically back them up no matter what. She can't tell the difference between what she wants and what the group wants.
6. The Banker: Girls trust her when she pumps them for information because it doesn't seem like gossip; instead, she does it in an innocent, "I'm trying to be your friend" way. This is the girl who sneaks under adult radar all the time because she can appear so cute and harmless.
7. The Target: She's the victim, set up by the other girls to be humiliated, made fun of, excluded. She can be part of a clique or outside the clique. Either way, she feels isolated and alone.
Talking to Your Daughter:
4 Must-Ask Questions
It can be really hard to talk to your daughter about her role and experiences in the clique. Start by asking her opinion of the list above. What rings true for her and what doesn't? Encourage her to come up with her own names and create roles she thinks aren't on this list. Approach your daughter as an observer of other girls.
1. What do people gain and lose from their role in a clique?
2. Why do you think that person is in that role?
3. How does it impact you to watch these things happen with your friends?
4. How does it feel when it happens to you?
Whatever position your daughter has in her clique, always affirm her self-worth. Tell her that you recognize that these situations are really difficult. If you think a story about when you were a teenager will be something she can relate to, tell her. But don't tell her what to do. Instead, describe the behavior you respect. Work with her as she comes up with a plan that describes specifically what she wants to happen differently, and how she can make that happen. You daughter will feel better just knowing you understand life in her world.