Bullying Featured — 21 September 2011
Relational Aggression, Part 1: The Clique

Clique is not a noise you make with your fingers. What is a clique? Girls really hate the word. Ask any group of fourth grade girls and they will tell you: “we don’t have cliques, we have clubs.” Ask any fourth grade boy and they will tell you: ” it’s a group of girls who think they are better than other girls and they won’t let them in the group. They have like all these rules on clothes, hair, who you play with…like that. They like to call them clubs, but it’s the same thing.”

Cliques have been around for a long time. They are a group of girls who follow one girl. Rules, both spoken and unspoken dictate the membership and behavior of the group. Some girls are in, others are out. If you are the on the outside, you know you are definitely out. You may not know why, but you know. There is nothing more painful for a girl than to be left out of the group. So, why is it a problem for girls to have a group or “club”?

A clique is one aspect of a type of bullying referred to as “Relational Aggression”. This term encompasses bullying done primarily by females and includes: exclusion, passing notes, taunting, verbal intimidation, texting, cyberbullying, passing rumors and manipulation.

Rosalind Wiseman has done a great deal of research on the subject. In her bookQueen Bees and Wannabes (Three Rivers Press, 2002), Wiseman likens the clique to a beehive. One girl sets the rules and is referred to as the queen bee. All of her helper bees also have identifiers. Whenever I discuss cliques as part of a workshop on relational aggression, it definitely hits a nerve. Whether the girl is seven or seventy, city or suburb, pubic school or private, they all have a story about where they fit in the “hive” and how it felt to be in that position. I have yet to have anyone admit to being a “queen bee”, but then again, they don’t generally come to workshops on relational aggression unless they are school children. Then they just sit quietly and roll their eyes at me and tell me they “don’t have cliques, just clubs”.

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About Author


After 16 years in the classroom MaryAnn Byrne became a nationally certified counselor and a licensed professional counselor, specializing in child and adolescent therapy and relational aggression. In 2007, MaryAnn became a certified Olweus Bullying Prevention trainer/consultant. She currently works as a school counselor in both elementary and middle school. Additionally, she supervises Olweus programs at the middle school level. She frequently conducts workshops for private schools, Girl Scouts and professional development for the school system. MaryAnn earned her master’s degree from Virginia Tech in counseling, pupil personnel services as well as a B.S. in special education and early childhood education from Radford University.

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