The lived experience of girl-to-girl aggression

Open Access
Adamshick, Pamela Zenz
Graduate Program:
Doctor of Philosophy
Document Type:
Date of Defense:
October 09, 2006
Committee Members:
  • Judith E Hupcey, Committee Chair
  • Cheryl A Dellasega, Committee Member
  • Glen Alan Mazis, Committee Member
  • Janice Lee Penrod, Committee Member
  • relational aggression
  • female bullying
  • adolescents
  • marginalized girls
ABSTRACT In the last decade, much literature has focused on the indirect aggression occurring within adolescent girls’ relationships, sometimes referred to as female bullying or relational aggression. Most of these studies were based on white, middle class girls, and neglected overt or physical aggression. The experiences of girl-to-girl aggression in diverse groups of girls who are out of the mainstream because of poor relationship skills and aggression are notably absent, yet this group may be the most at risk for escalating and/or persistent aggression. Using a phenomenological strategy of inquiry, this study describes the lived experience of girl-to-girl aggression in six adolescent girls from a marginalized group, attending an alternative school. The girls were interviewed using an unstructured interview, and were asked to respond to selected readings from popular literature on girl-to-girl aggression and relationships. Themes and core meaning structures of girl-to-girl aggression in this population of girls were identified using Van Manen’s methodology. The meaning structures are: attachment amidst risk, fighting as approach to friendship, protective response, and having friends and forming identity. The findings have implications for guiding nursing practice and research. This is the first study to identify girl-to-girl aggression as a path toward attachment and friendship. Nursing care needs to recognize the identity of girls in this population as fighters, and aggression as their way of protecting and holding on to relationships. Strategies include primary prevention to identify high-risk girls, mentoring programs using culturally congruent mentors, and emphasis on protective factors, friendship, and attachment through girls’ support groups.