A study published online in the journal Behavior Modification shows that reducing mean girl behaviors, including gossiping and social exclusion, can also improve the overall classroom atmosphere. According to researchers, once the girls changed their bad behavior, the boys in their classroom were also less likely to get into fights.

The study involved randomly placing 665 students (46.3% male) from six schools within the School District of Philadelphia in the Friend to Friend (F2F) program and the education-based intervention Homework, Study Skills and Organization program. The F2F program is developed for urban African-American youths to curb their nonphysical bullying or relational aggression to others through teaching them problem solving, anger management strategies and leadership skills

The research team from The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP) conducted the study for 10 weeks. The students were tasked to rate their classmates’ behaviors like being nice and spreading rumors. The teachers were also asked to rate their relationships with the students.

mean girls

Stephen S. Leff. Credit: The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia

The research team found that the mean girls participating in the F2F program experienced an improvement in their behaviors. Interestingly, the boys in the same classrooms experienced the same. Their relationships with their teachers were enhanced.

On the other hand, the mean girls and boys who participated in the HSO did not experience the same improvements. These students’ behaviors rated lower in their peer ratings.

“A program focused on improving behaviors among urban aggressive girl students also had positive effects on non-targeted students and served to improve the classroom climate,” points out lead researcher, Stephen S. Leff, co-director of the Violence Prevention Initiative at CHOP and a professor of Clinical Psychology in Pediatrics in the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania. “We hope our future studies will determine why the program has such strong effects for non-targeted youth. Regardless, we are excited about the initial impact, and feel that the program has great potential for helping aggressive girls and their classmates.”