There is almost nothing we do in life that is independent of relationships – from the school setting, to the workplace, to marriage and parenting…very few people admit it, but the most important skills in our lives are relationship skills. Without them, everything else breaks down."
Dr. Debra Peplar, Education Report – article Power Play
Relational aggression is not typical physical or verbal bullying but a more subtle form of aggression that uses relationships to damage or manipulate others. Both boys and girls engage in aggression, but girls usually express it relationally. They use relationships to inflict harm, manipulate relationships with their peers, injure others' feelings of social acceptance. They purposefully ignore other girls, spread rumours, and tell peers not to associate with another girl as a means of retaliation.
The consequences are serious. Both victims and aggressors are at risk for serious adjustment problems that can have far-reaching effects on their lives, including depression and suicide. Relational aggression can create a hostile social environment in schools that affects children's ability to learn and grow.
Three parties are involved in relational aggression: the bully, the victim, and the bystander. The BC Safe School Task Force Report states, "The Task Force learned that bystanders are not innocent witnesses in many cases and are often the cause of bullying." Real change can take place by empowering the bystander.
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