The Effects of Gossip on Teenage Girls

Fending Off the Emotional Damage of Rumors

Teenage girls carry certain social labels including the image of the circle of girls sharing small scandals of each others lives. Unfortunately, this does happen and it does have consequences.

Gossip may seem an innocent form of normal teenage life. From the outside the topics may seem inane or superficial. However, to the group participants the conversations often center on areas of life in which the girls is heavily invested. Laurence Owen writes in “The Effects of Indirect Aggression on Teenage Girls” [School Psychology International, 2003] that activities such as group exclusion, derailing other girls and other forms of indirect bullying have consequences ranging from anxiety to deep spells of depression.

The Source of Gossip

In the course of developing friendships, many adolescent girls will belong to a number of social groups or cliques as they move through school. Transitioning from group to group may carry problems including other group members envy or jealousy. This can result in an amazing amount of gossiping and other forms of indirect bullying.

Another source of gossiping can come in breaking the implied rules of the clique. Whether it be failing to attend a planned social function or failing to fall in line with the latest fashion, breaking the implied agreements of the friendship group can quickly place the offender in the unenviable position of being the target of false rumors.

Of course, some gossiping simply happens out of the interworking of group dynamics. Since there is an inherent drive in social groups to establish a hierarchy, some group members find themselves being attacked or excluded in attempts by other members to assert dominion over them and to bolster the bully in the eyes of the group.

Preventing the Damage of Gossip

The number one way of defending a teenage girl against the effects of gossiping is to bolster her self-esteem and self-confidence. Essential acheivement of basic self-esteem enhancing skills is important in an adolescent girl's life. The stronger a girl's self-esteem, the less likely they are to stumble in the face of potential rumor making. Building self-esteem comes from a number of sources. These may include a stronger ability to problem solve, ability to receive and process compliments and an ability to handle social situations.

Parents can help girls in face of gossip in a number of ways.
Identify the gossip and help the target of the rumor understand the falsehoods contained in it.
Help the girl confront those spreading the rumors with the idea of resolving the behavior immediately.
Encourage girls to have a wide range of interest and a wide range of friends.
Spend time learning to understand the teenager's world and what meanings are attached to what actions.
Help teenagers identify personal strengths and reinforce those strengths.

In the face of gossip, girls may need to learn to apply social skills which help resolve the underlying conflict or issue. If the issue is unrealistic or imagined, girls need to learn to say as much in the face of those applying the bullying behavior. When possible, conflict resolution can be assited by parents of both girls in a casual gathering to address the issue.

Gossiping can be devastating to teenagers. Gossiping, like most indirect forms of bullying, can result in anxiety and depression as well as lowering self-esteem and self-confidence. Parents can help by teaching girls problem resolving skills and by helping them find their strengths.

Author's Bio: 

Dr. Reece W. Manley, DD, M.Ed., MPM, is noted Christian author and spirituality expert. He provides professional pastoral counseling through Horizons Counseling at 1-800-936-0812.