Do Torah Values Count? Relational Aggression in Ultra-Orthodox Jewish Bais Yaakov High School Girls
Zentman, Lynda M.
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The purpose of this research is to explore relational aggression in a Jewish religious all-female high school setting to determine whether moral and religious values have a moderating effect on the frequency of such behavior, as compared to secular settings. Relational aggression, a subset of bullying causing harm to relationships and/or social status, is of growing concern due to rising public awareness of the negative social/emotional long term effects on both perpetrator and victim alike. This quantitative study focuses on the existence and possible rationales for relationally and socially aggressive acts, in an underexplored and unique cohort.;The research aims were achieved through data collection of self- report questionnaires from 313 participating students in four school sites in the New York tri-state area. Qualitative data, collected by the researcher via small focus groups, substantiated and enriched the findings. Key findings included evidence of relational and social aggression throughout the four grade levels, with the highest peak occurring in the tenth grade, which compares to the developmental trajectory of secular settings. However the comparative frequency was lower, since only 5% of students actively engaged in relational aggression as compared to secular statistics of 17- 30%. Torah values were found to have a modest impact on relationally aggressive behavior, while personal comfort and friends tended to influence girls' behavior, both positively and negatively.;The main conclusion drawn from this study is the necessity to recognize that despite the strong Jewish moral and ethical basis associated with ultra-orthodoxy, many of the same issues that are found in secular settings exist in in this society as well. There is a need to scrutinize all levels of Jewish ultra-orthodox educational settings to determine the extent and impact of bullying behavior. Parents and educators must be made aware of the short and long term social and psychological issues associated with relational aggression, and prevention/ intervention programs should be formulated and instituted as deemed necessary. The teaching of Torah values vis-a-vis interpersonal relationships must be reevaluated in light of the apparent disconnect highlighted in this study.