Why Girls Are Getting More Violent

March 11, 2006 — -- Girls have been stereotyped as catty and occasionally mean, but that no longer seems to be all: A growing number of teenage girls seem to be engaging in more extreme not-so-nice behavior, including violence.

Teenage boys used to be the typical troublemakers, but statistics, and legal and school officials suggest young girls are narrowing the gap -- with disturbing consequences.

Girls Gone Nasty

In one suburban Chicago high school, the annual "Powder Puff Derby" between senior and junior high school girls turned into dangerous hazing incident -- producing some disturbing video that made the national news.

Raisa Lane, now a senior, experienced that sort of aggression firsthand at her Seattle high school when she was a sophomore and suffered a broken nose and bruises at the hands of a female schoolmate.

"The girl that I was being harassed by followed me out of the classroom and pushed me down the stairs, and then proceeded to hit me," Lane said.

The girl had been threatening Lane for months, but neither Lane nor her mother took it seriously.

"I never imagined this happening with my daughter in a million years," Lorrie Lane said. "The things that they do used to only be for the guys. Now the girls do it."

Statistics seem to prove her right. Nationwide, arrests for aggravated assault by girls rose by 68 percent from 1987 to 2003.

"The school violence cases that we see here," said Charles Lind, senior deputy prosecutor in King County, Wash., "about one out of every five involves a young woman instead of a young man. And those cases predominantly involve assaults and weapons possession in school."

No Longer Just Sweet

In his book, "See Jane Hit," Dr. James Garbarino said cultural changes in entertainment and sports have stripped away girls' inhibitions.

"You used to be able to say to girls, 'Don't hit,' and have the culture back that up," he said. "Now that is no longer true."

Girls no longer seem to worry if they're being "like the boys."

"Sports can and does increase the risk of aggression, and aggression spilling off the field," he said.

It's not just sports. Entertainment also is laced with violence by women.

"In movies, we're seeing very aggressive and sexy young women take on the world with knives and guns and bombs and karate and fists," Garbarino said, "so a girl gets the message you can be violent and a good guy."

The more aggressive behavior among girls isn't limited to any one community.

"There's no stigma attached to young women involved in violence in schools," Lind said. "It crosses racial lines, seems to cross all kinds of demographics, including economic lines."

For Lane, the consequence of such violence has been long-lasting.

"I think that her spirit was broken," her mother said. "And I think it will take a long time to get that spirit back, in a lot of ways."

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