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The Meaning of Meanness

In: Social Issues

Submitted By rockongirl17
Words 910
Pages 4
Tziporah Nockenofsky, 337655518
The Meaning of Meanness: Popularity, Competition, and Conflict among Junior High School Girls Don E. Merten
In this qualitative research paper, Merten examines the sociocultural construct of meanness, more specifically how competition for popularity influenced a group of girls in junior high to be blatantly mean to one another. The goal is to understand why meanness was considered acceptable and didn’t threaten the girls’ popularity and perhaps more importantly, to understand the mixture of social and cultural factors that exist behind this cluster of behaviors. Merten approaches the issue of meanness not because of a deficiency in existing field research but in order to focus on the relationship between competition for popularity and meanness. The clique he researched had become so embroiled in their mean spirited behaviors, they acquired a reputation of being the meanest girls in the school. Merten concentrates on analyzing the complicated factors that led to such a social reality.
In earlier research of competition and its effects on human relationships, researchers worked from the suspicion that women were by nature less competitive than men. Females were found to prefer to use verbal strategies to diffuse personal conflict rather than confront any open competition. Eventually it was understood that women merely had a different way of competing with one another. Sheldon (1992) and Hughes (1988) proposed models that describe linguistic tactics and ideas of nice-mean as ways of dealing with conflict. Girls were able to soften the effects of their interpersonal actions by mediating conflict and manipulating the situation so as to simultaneously get their way without…...

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