Guangzhou, China (PressExposure) August 04, 2010 -- Rachel Simmons's new best seller and another recent best seller by Rosalind Wiseman seem to have struck a particularly sensitive nerve among parents. On their current book tours, both authors have emerged as experts on mean girls. Thomas Sabo Charms Until recently, these authors contend, no one talked about the ugly parts of Girl World. But a wave of school shootings focused new attention on bullying by boys, which begot a slew of best-selling books in the late 1990s about boys and how to tame them.
It was inevitable, perhaps, that the attention of the public and the publishing world would eventually shift to girls. Wiseman's book, a distillation of the lessons learned in her violence-prevention classes, is a useful, how-to manual for parents with step-by-step instructions for what to do in the trickiest situations. Simmons's thought provoking book, which she began while a Rhodes Scholar, probes the emotional underground of girls aggression. Her interviews with dozens of to 14-year-old girls and adult women have prompted many readers to pour out their hearts to her - and that was pretty much her goal.
But while readers gobble up these books, social-science researchers are more cautious. The idea of ascribing certain behaviors to an entire gender doesn't really hold up under scrutiny, they say. No one disputes that girls can indeed be nasty, vicious and backbiting- but so can boys. And while it may be true that boys are more likely to express their anger through physical means, girls are not violence-free. In fact, there's been a disturbing increase in violence by girls. Girls now account for 27 percent of all arrests (compared with about 22 percent just a decade ago). Scientists say gender is simply one component in determining how a person turns out and these books may put too much emphasis on it. Just as important as gender, researchers say, are such factors as sexual orientation, religion, social class, and even the type of community where a youngster lives.
All of those factors play out within the context of the child's place in a particular family, and the youngster's innate personality traits. But both the authors and the experts on adolescents do agree that teenagers still want to feel emotionally close to their parents - even when they slam the door and say they just want to be alone. The best advice during times of stress: Listen to your daughter's problems, respect her feelings and be patient.
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