Are there differences between male and female bullies?

Boys pull hair, but that doesn't mean that girls are sugar, spice and everything nice. See more emotion pictures.
Darrin Klimek/Digital Vision/Getty Images

When you consider the great bullies that have graced the movie and television screen, most of them are males. In 2008, the Boston Globe compiled a list of the most intimidating pop culture bullies, and 12 out of 15 spots went to bad boys, including Bluto from "Popeye," Simon Cowell from "American Idol," Nelson from "The Simpsons" and Biff Tannen from "Back to the Future." Just three women represented their gender on the list: Nellie Olsen from "Little House on the Prairie," Regina George from "Mean Girls" and conservative commentator Ann Coulter.

Proportionately, this list seems about right -- in real life, bullies are far more likely to be male than female. In fact, if a screenwriter wanted to get a big laugh out of just how cowardly his male protagonist is, he might pit the youngster against a girl bully, albeit a big, burly one that hardly resembled a girl at all. As a culture, we tend to expect boys to throw the punches, verbal and physical. "American Idol" would be a much different experience if Paula was the mean one and Simon was the one who gushed over contestants.

For decades, researchers thought that boys were inherently more aggressive than girls, and playground scuffles usually ended with a boy in detention. In the 1990s, though, Finnish researcher Kaj Bjorkqvist began interviewing adolescent girls about their interactions. What he found is that girls are no less aggressive than boys; they're just aggressive in different ways [source: Talbot]. Instead of fighting on the playground like the boys, they play subtle mind games that may be even more damaging than a black eye.

For this reason, the Boston Globe's inclusion of Regina George makes perfect sense. 2004's "Mean Girls" was adapted from the book "Queen Bees and Wannabes: Helping Your Daughter Survive Cliques, Gossip, Boyfriends, and Other Realities of Adolescence" by Rosalind Wiseman. Regina George's dictates that her friends wear certain outfits on a given day of the week was based on a real high schooler's rules, and Regina's efforts to manipulate the girls in her orbit go on every day in the halls of high schools. So how do girls get to be such big bullies?