Washington, Sept 17 : It's not just girls who indulge in petty gossip, for when it comes to social aggression, boys are not far behind, suggests a new study.
For ages, boys are known to engage in physical aggression like hitting and punching, while girls are synonymous with spreading rumours, gossip, and intentionally exclude others, which is referred to as indirect, relational, or social aggression.
But, a new analysis of almost 150 studies of aggression in children and adolescents has claimed that girls and boys equally indulge in social aggression.
"These conclusions challenge the popular misconception that indirect aggression is a female form of aggression," said Noel A. Card, assistant professor of family studies and human development at the University of Arizona and the study's lead author.
Conducted by Card and researchers at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and the University of Kansas, the analysis of 148 studies, comprised almost 74,000 children and adolescents and were carried out largely in schools.
It mainly looked at both direct aggression, which is usually defined as physical, and indirect aggression, which includes covert behaviour designed to damage another individual's social standing in his or her peer group.
According to the researchers, the myth that girls are more likely to be indirectly or socially aggressive than boys has persisted among teachers, parents, and even other researchers because of social expectations that develop early in life and recent movies and books that portray girls as mean and socially aggressive toward one another.
After the analysis, the researchers suggested that children who carry out one form of aggression may be inclined to carry out the other form; this is seen more in boys than in girls.
They also found ties between both forms of aggression and adjustment problems.
Specifically, direct aggression is related to problems like delinquency and ADHD-type symptoms, poor relationships with peers, and low prosocial behavior such as helping and sharing.
On the contrary, indirect aggression is related to problems like depression and low self-esteem, as well as higher prosocial behavior, this may be because a child must use prosocial skills to encourage peers to exclude or gossip about others.
The analysis appears in the latest issue of the journal Child Development.