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Why Do Girls Gossip?

According to Dr. Eileen Kennedy-Moore, most kids agree that “talking behind someone’s back” is unkind, but they do it anyway. A lot.

Most of the gossip was not mean. Over half of the comments just involved sharing information. Another quarter was for entertainment and involved sharing a laugh or an interesting story. Only 7% of the gossip comments were aggressive remarks that could hurt someone’s social standing.

People are interesting. Gossip makes up about two-thirds of the naturally occurring conversations of adult men and women, so it’s unrealistic to expect kids never to gossip.

Gossip can have a positive side: It can help children figure out peer group relationships. Talking about others helps kids understand what behaviors are or are not valued by peers, who is or isn’t getting along with whom, and who is or isn’t trustworthy. Just as adults need to be at least somewhat clued in to the grape vine at work or in their communities, kids need to know what’s going on with their peers.

Gossip can also create a sense of intimacy, because it involves shared confidences. Both kids and adults are more likely to gossip with friends than with strangers.

But it’s also important to help kids understand that they can hurt someone badly through gossip. Reputations can go down quickly, but they’re hard to repair. If you or your child has been the subject of mean gossip, you know how cruel words can hurt reputations and feelings. Spreading false rumors is a vicious thing to do. Sharing unflattering information or judgments about someone is unkind, and sadly, often the weapon of choice among adolescent girls.

Gossip can also lead to conflict. Here’s a situation that comes up often: One girl says something mean to a second girl about a third girl. The second girl, thinking she’s being a loyal friend, tells the third girl about the first girl’s comments. The third girl is then mad at the first girl for making the comments, and the first girl is mad at the second girl for blabbing. Tears and ugly drama ensue.

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I took this picture at the Yuan Yang market. I don’t know if this sextet is gossiping about any man, or about their secret, because they spoke their Hani minority dialect that I don’t understand. I wish they were praising someone as a hero.

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Additional Photos by Ngy Thanh (ngythanh) Gold Star Critiquer/Gold Star Workshop Editor/Gold Note Writer [C: 472 W: 128 N: 2360] (8580)
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