Factors Affecting Female Aggression
There are a variety of factors impacting the continued emergence of female aggression. No single factor can be attributed solely to motivating girls to be violent.
Instead “risk factors come together and act in synergy to create problems” (Prothrow-Stith and Spivak, 2005, p58).
Girls may begin smoking, which may lead to drug use, which makes them more likely to be sexually active and be victimized, which may eventually lead to violence somewhere down the chain.
It is important however, to identify the factors individually in order to combat this issue. Two big factors impacting the continued emergence of violence in females that will be addressed include witnessing violence and victimization, and the effect of social and cultural influences on girls.
Witnessing and Victimization
“Sexual and physical abuse are well-worn paths to female delinquency” (Prothrow-Stith and Spivak, 2005, p64).
The number of girls being victimized today is shocking compared with past numbers. A recent study done in California juvenile detention centers showed that 92 percent of the female inmates were victimized as child. (p64)
It is a widely known fact that abused children are more likely to be in an abusive relationship as they grow older or be the abuser themselves.
Whether a young girl grows up to imitate her abusive relationship by finding an abuser or becoming one, this is only one source of the violence that comes from witnessing violence and/or victimization.
Studies are showing that girls are fighting back to defend themselves and to take revenge. “Why should girls take it any more than boys do?” (Prothrow-Stith and Spivak, 2005, p85)
Instead of the typical cowering, crying and running away, girls are now standing up for themselves and refusing to be mistreated.
Probably due to the fact that society is now raising girls to be equal to boys and the media reflects this change. Girls now understand a societal belief that they are no longer the inferior species and are reacting to those beliefs.
Social and Cultural Issues
“The changes in girls’ behavior have followed the last decade and a half of media portrayals of female superheroes beating people up and getting beat up just as male superheroes do – the feminization of the superhero” (Prothrow-Stith and Spivak, 2005, p80).
Society has developed a love for violence that can be seen in popular movies, TV shows, and even music. It has become okay to be violent and display violence in public.
Between statistics showing the high number of girls having been abused or having been in an abusive situation, gender equality and teaching women to be equal to men, and the variety of popular violence in the media, it is no surprise that female violence rates are rising fast.
What is needed is a plan of action to help these girls with this concerning problem and in some way lower the violence rates that are climbing dangerously.
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Plan of Action
Schools have been trying to offer programs for years in a wide variety of topics from teen dropouts and teen pregnancy to violence.
Students need more than cute booklets with activities in them and movies about other teens in their situations.
They definitely need more than for schools to pass out condoms. What these children need is a safe, responsible adult to go to for comfort, a shoulder to cry on, and a safe haven. These children need a strong family core at home. Unfortunately schools cannot provide this for them.
Schools need to look out for the warning signs in their students like “poor academic performance, early sexual activity, smoking, and alcohol and other drug use . . . that indicate greater risk for other risky behaviors including violence” (Prothrow-Stith and Spivak, 2005, p69) and then focus on prevention.
This can first be done by creating a nurturing, positive environment for students within the school along with the opportunity for stable emotional relationships with the adults in the school.
“The presence of such a relationship promotes resiliency; its absence leaves a child open and vulnerable to negative influences” (71).
When students only see teachers screaming and yelling, not understanding why homework has not been done and sending them to the principal’s office, from which they receive no consequences, they are only receiving what they get at home and are further deprived of the love and acceptance they need.
At this point, no “program” that is provided for them will be relevant. They don’t need education, they need love. This would be contingent on tighter hiring qualifications and more teachers not displaying the characteristics needed being let go.
With such an environment, no “programs” would be needed because students would know that support was there when they needed it.
Two big factors impacting the continued emergence of violence in females that were addressed included witnessing violence and victimization, and the effect of social and cultural influences on girls.
Schools cannot ultimately do anything to control home environments for these children, but by providing them a supportive, caring environment at school, some of the critical needs of these children can be met at school providing the prevention of violence in girls rather than fixing the problem afterward.
Prothrow-Stith, D. and Spivak, H. R. (2005). Sugar and spice and no longer nice: How we can stop girls’ violence. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.