A new study from the University of Florida indicates that girls are a schoolyard victim’s best protection against bullies. Turns out that while boys are more likely to be bullies, girls are more likely to defend those being bullied, contrary to what parents, teachers and administrators generally believe.
Researcher Jim Porter, who did the study for his doctoral dissertation at UF, wanted to know whether bully protection programs implemented in schools across the country are developed with a complete perspective on bullying and school-related violence (very often the result of bullying). So he went to the source and surveyed female and male students, ages 10-15, from middle schools in Florida.
Here’s what he discovered: 85% of girls surveyed said their best friend would expect them to defend or help a bullying victim, compared with only 66% of boys. In contrast to this 19% gap, there was only a 1 to 3% difference in expectations for girls’ and boys’ behavior by teachers and parents.
Plus, the study showed that merely having more feminine traits, as measured by a gender identity scale, increased the likelihood that a student would defend against a bully.
So the takeaway is that peer pressure for girls, at least when it comes to stopping bullies, is a quite good thing.
Not incidentally, this works the other way around, too, but in favor of the bullies. A study from a few years back indicated that peers are involved in about 85% of bullying episodes.