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When let down, girls feel more anger, sadness than boys

Girls may be sweet and honeyed, but they are just as likely to feel offended or sad as boys, especially when felt let down by friends.

In a Duke University study, researchers found that pre-teen girls may not be any better at friendships than boys, despite previous research suggesting otherwise.

 

The study was co-authored by Julie Paquette MacEvoy, former Duke doctoral student who is now assistant professor at Boston College's Lynch School of Education, and Steven Asher, professor of psychology and neuroscience at Duke.

The findings suggest that when more serious violations of a friendship occur, girls struggle just as much and, in some ways, even more than boys.

The girls were just as likely as boys to report that they would verbally attack the friend who told one of their secrets to other children, the journal Child Development reports.

The girls also reported being more bothered by the transgressions, felt more anger and sadness, and were more likely to think the offense meant their friend did not care about them or was trying to control them, according to a Duke statement.

MacEvoy and Asher showed 267 fourth- and fifth-grade children 16 hypothetical stories in which they were asked to imagine that a friend violated a core expectation of friendship.

For each story, the nine- to 11-year-olds were asked how they would feel if the incident really happened to them, how they would interpret the friend's behaviour.

"Our finding that girls would be just as vengeful and aggressive toward their friends as the boys is particularly interesting because past research has consistently shown boys to react more negatively following minor conflicts with friends," Asher said.

The study found that anger and sadness played significant roles in how boys and girls reacted to offending friends. For both genders, the more strongly they felt a friend had devalued them or was trying to control them, the more anger and sadness they felt.

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