Date of Award

Fall October 2015

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Degree Name

Doctorate in Education



School or College

School of Education

First Advisor

Antonia Darder

Second Advisor

Jill P. Bickett

Third Advisor

Elizabeth Reilly


This study, Relational Aggression, Middle School Girls, and the Development of Critical Consciousness, engaged both feminist theory and critical pedagogy as a means to deconstruct the issue of relational aggression among adolescent girls. The objective of this research was to contribute to the growing body of literature pertaining to relational aggression and fill some gaps in the literature surrounding preventative programming. This study investigated the experiences of middle school girls engaged in a solution- oriented approach in order to postulate possible program approaches and educational initiatives to decrease the prevalence of relational aggression in middle school girls. The collection and analysis of the data sought to describe a connection between girls’ participation in the program and developing critical consciousness about relational aggression, as well as strategies to address it in their lives. The qualitative data collected in this participatory action research show that relational aggression is much more than a mere “right of passage” or indicate that “mean girls” are a just a normal part of growing up. Relational aggression is harmful, has intense, negative short- and long-term effects, and—in the lives of the girls I have worked closely with—is very real, incredibly painful, and deeply personal. The findings of this study confirmed that girls benefit from the creation of educative environments, or “safe spaces,” where they can dialogue critically with one another about issues that are important to them; this is integral to their socioemotional development in middle school.

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