Mean Girl Syndrome

May 28, 2010 | NeW Staff

The Hills, which airs on MTV, is a reality show centered on a group of girls in their early twenties living in Los Angeles. Some of the cast members initially debuted on the reality show Laguna Beach, when MTV found success in documenting the lives of wealthy, beach dwelling, dramatic teen-agers. Thus, it seemed like a no brainer to create a spin off from Laguna Beach when the show’s lead Lauren Conrad decided to move to LA after her high school graduation. The Hills was born. 

Stephanie, Brody, Spencer, Heidi, Kristin, Audrina and Lo
Photo: from MTV 

The Hills, which is now in season six, seems to have become progressively worse season after season in terms of drama and cat fights. For several seasons the show focused on a feud between queen bee Lauren Conrad and former best friend Heidi Montag (over Heidi’s now husband Spencer).  Now, almost everyone in the cast has endured some major feud with another cast mate. When Conrad decided to leave the show, MTV decided to bring Laguna Beach alum Kristen Cavallari back to take Conrad’s place. Cavallari, upon arriving on the show, attempts to date another girl’s ex-boyfriend and gets into a shouting match during the first episode. 

Do these girls do anything productive with their lives? Well, they do serve as perfect examples of what researchers at the University of Buffalo are studying: mean girl syndrome. 

Psychologist Jamie Ostrov hopes to understand what leads to such malicious, reputation damaging, mean spirited behavior between young women. Negative behavior like gossiping and boyfriend stealing can lead to depression, anxiety, and academic problems (Ostrov, 2010). While there is no quick fix to the situation, researchers are hoping to develop coping strategies and recommendations for young women encountering such problems. With an increasing amount of media (The Hills, Gossip Girl, Mean Girls, Glee, to name a few)  focusing on and demonstrating mean girl syndrome it is likely that tools to combat the behavior will be needed in the future. 

Considering nearly 30 percent of youth in the U.S. are already a part of bullying (either as a bully or a victim) the last thing children and adolescents need is further reinforcement that aggressive and malicious behavior is acceptable behavior. The Hills in my opinion absolutely glorifies gossiping, boyfriend stealing, feuding behavior between the young women on the show. I would like to think young women would not follow the behavior of shows like The Hills, but unfortunately know that social or observational learning is a reality that cannot be ignored. Dramatic television may lead to good ratings, yet serves as a poor model for young women developing social skills. It is unfortunate to see a rise of shows that promote such negative behavior, especially when that behavior continues to be portrayed in a glamorous manner. 

What effect (if any) do you think shows like The Hills are having on children/ adolescents today? Have you seen mean girl syndrome at work in your social circles or work/ school? 

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