Teenagers from hell

Popular films, and a rise in families without a father, appear to be factors in an alarming trend towards young female violence. Glenda Cooper reports

Paint and excrement were daubed on the teacher's front door. Petrol was spread over her drive. Hate mail and death threats were posted through the letterbox and stones were thrown.

Such a hate campaign would be terrible no matter who devised it. But it acquires a shocking resonance when you discover that it is eight girls scarcely into their teens who are alleged to have carried it out.

All have since been suspended from the school , considered to be one of the best schools in Scotland, and are facing police investigation. The headteacher claimed that there was not a discipline problem, and his pupils were "decent" boys and girls.

Girls have always been cruel, as anyone who endured a girls' school can testify. Psychologists have conducted studies showing that they make much more effective bullies than boys, because they have superior understanding of the way relationships function and thus can devise subtle ways of torturing their victims.

Surely it wasn't always like this? Take off your NHS specs; it always was. Even in that distant Angela Brazil world there were always the Imogens, the Gillians and the Olgas whose cruelty left you terrified.

What is different is that young women are moving away from the traditional weapons of verbal torture, poison pen letters, and social ostracism. There are indications that schoolgirl Flashmans are adding physical violence to their repertoire.

The charity Kidscape has seen a "marked trend" in calls to its help line about girl bullies. It received 80 reports of violence in 1993, which had risen to 119 by 1995, varying from kicking and pushing to one group attack in which a girl was pinned down in the showers by classmates who pushed a bar of soap into her anus.

Sometimes the consequences of girls' violence can be even more severe. Last year in Corby, Louise Allen, 13, was set on by a group of girls "like a pack of animals" and kicked to death after she tried to break up a fight. Two girls were found guilty of her manslaughter last December.

Worryingly, the think-tank Demos reports that in the 15-to-17 age group, girls are more likely to take pleasure in violence than boys, suggesting that we may have a new generation of female aggressors in the making.

But who can blame them? All around them girls see an increase of violent female images. Doris Day is supplanted by Sharon Stone. Thelma and Louise, Single White Female, Basic Instinct and Heavenly Creatures, all featuring aggressive, powerful females, were huge successes on the wide screen.

Added to this is a prevailing culture of aggression that makes girls think they have to be tough to survive, plus an increasing number of broken homes that leave girls without a father to take on the protective role. Is it surprising, then, that the conclusion girls reach is that sisters have to do it for themselves?

More confidence and self-esteem at school - girls outperform boys all the way to A-level now - may well have released latent aggression in these young women. The message to go and get what you want has become twisted to read: "kick everyone who gets in your way".

Girls' lives have been transformed by increasing equality with boys, but the price we have paid is that they seem to be taking on the darker aspects of male behaviour. Until we convince them that violent machismo is no good for either sex, playgrounds could become increasingly violentn

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Education

KS1 Teacher

£95 - £150 per day: Randstad Education Birmingham: Key Stage 1 teacher require...

Foundation Primary Teacher

£100 - £140 per day: Randstad Education Birmingham: We are looking for Founda...

Psychology Teacher

Main Teacher Pay Scale : Randstad Education Leeds: Teacher of Psychology An en...

Geography Teacher

£19200 - £33600 per annum + pre 12 week AWR : Randstad Education Manchester Se...

Day In a Page

How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?

A crime that reveals London's dark heart

How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?
Meet 'Porridge' and 'Vampire': Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker

Lost in translation: Western monikers

Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker. Simon Usborne, who met a 'Porridge' and a 'Vampire' while in China, can see the problem
Handy hacks that make life easier: New book reveals how to rid your inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone

Handy hacks that make life easier

New book reveals how to rid your email inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone with a loo-roll
KidZania lets children try their hands at being a firefighter, doctor or factory worker for the day

KidZania: It's a small world

The new 'educational entertainment experience' in London's Shepherd's Bush will allow children to try out the jobs that are usually undertaken by adults, including firefighter, doctor or factory worker
Renée Zellweger's real crime has been to age in an industry that prizes women's youth over humanity

'Renée Zellweger's real crime was to age'

The actress's altered appearance raised eyebrows at Elle's Women in Hollywood awards on Monday
From Cinderella to The Jungle Book, Disney plans live-action remakes of animated classics

Disney plans live-action remakes of animated classics

From Cinderella to The Jungle Book, Patrick Grafton-Green wonders if they can ever recapture the old magic
Thousands of teenagers to visit battlefields of the First World War in new Government scheme

Pupils to visit First World War battlefields

A new Government scheme aims to bring the the horrors of the conflict to life over the next five years
The 10 best smartphone accessories

Make the most of your mobile: 10 best smartphone accessories

Try these add-ons for everything from secret charging to making sure you never lose your keys again
Mario Balotelli substituted at half-time against Real Madrid: Was this shirt swapping the real reason?

Liverpool v Real Madrid

Mario Balotelli substituted at half-time. Was shirt swapping the real reason?
West Indies tour of India: Hurricane set to sweep Windies into the shadows

Hurricane set to sweep Windies into the shadows

Decision to pull out of India tour leaves the WICB fighting for its existence with an off-field storm building
Indiana serial killer? Man arrested for murdering teenage prostitute confesses to six other murders - and police fear there could be many more

A new American serial killer?

Police fear man arrested for murder of teen prostitute could be responsible for killing spree dating back 20 years
Sweetie, the fake 10-year-old girl designed to catch online predators, claims her first scalp

Sting to trap paedophiles may not carry weight in UK courts

Computer image of ‘Sweetie’ represented entrapment, experts say
Fukushima nuclear crisis: Evacuees still stuck in cramped emergency housing three years on - and may never return home

Return to Fukushima – a land they will never call home again

Evacuees still stuck in cramped emergency housing three years on from nuclear disaster
Wildlife Photographer of the Year: Intimate image of resting lions claims top prize

Wildlife Photographer of the Year

Intimate image of resting lions claims top prize
Online petitions: Sign here to change the world

Want to change the world? Just sign here

The proliferation of online petitions allows us to register our protests at the touch of a button. But do they change anything?