The sophisticated social structure of teenage Girl World is full of social intrigue and provides a political landscape for some teen girls to assume social power over their peers. Girl cliques are complex and multilayered and most girls assume a role within the clique. Social positions within the clique are not static, as a girl can lose her position within the hierarchy to another girl, and can move up and down the social totem pole.
In her book, “Queen Bees and Wannabes,” author Rosalind Wiseman suggests there are at least seven (7) different roles that girls assume within the structure of a social clique. These roles make up the social fabric within the clique and determine how each child will influence or impact relationships with the others around them.
The leader of the clique is usually the Queen Bee. For this girl, her popularity is based on fear and control. Through a combination of charisma, looks, money, will, force and manipulation, this girl reigns supreme among her peers and may weaken friendships between the other girls, thereby strengthening her own power and influence. Most Queen Bees aren’t willing to recognize the cruelty of their actions. She’s the center of attention and people value being around her energy and power.
The second in command within the girl clique is the Sidekick. She’s closest to the Queen Bee and will back her up no matter what in a thirst to siphon some of her power. She shares the mannerisms (and many times clothing style!) of the Queen Bee. Together they appear to the other girls as an impenetrable force. Many times they bully and silence the other girls to forward their own agenda.
Information and gossip about each other is the currency of teenage girl world. The Banker is the role within the girl clique that spreads this seemingly valuable information. She creates chaos everywhere she goes by banking information about her peers and dispensing it at strategic intervals for her own benefit. The Banker can hold a lot of power within the clique.
There is usually one girl in the clique that may also be friends with other girls or part of another girl clique. This is the role of The Floater. She has friends in different groups and can move freely between them. She may have “protective” characteristics that shield her from other girls’ cruelties, perhaps good looks, good grades, etc. She avoids conflicts within her main clique, and may have higher self esteem than the others because she doesn’t base her image of self-worth on being accepted within the clique.
The Torn Bystander is constantly conflicted between doing the right thing and her allegiance to the clique. She’s frequently caught in the middle of conflicts between the other girls. She may even rationalize the disrespectful behavior of the Queen Bee and others, despite knowing it’s wrong. By associating herself with the other girls in the clique, this role values access to popularity and high social status.
Doing anything to be in the good graces of the Queen Bee, The Pleaser/Wannabe will enthusiastically back-up the Queen Bee and Sidekick no matter what. She’ll mimic clothes, style and anything else she feels will increase or improve her position in the group. She’s motivated above all else to please the girl above her on the social totem pole. This role is determined not to appear to be trying too hard to fit in.
The Target is the victim of the clique, set up by the other girls to be humiliated, ridiculed and excluded. The social hierarchy of the clique is maintained by having someone clearly at the bottom of the social totem pole. Any challenge to the Queen Bee’s status, or balance of power within the group, can cause a girl to become a Target of the clique. Many times this role will feel totally helpless in the face of the other girls’ cruelty.
Parents can make a difference in Girl World. Understanding the roles within a girl clique can help parents better understand what their daughter may be going through during her day in middle school or high school. Different parenting styles will affect how a parent reacts to a girl’s experiences in this social structure. Healthy active listening and exploring problem solving techniques will help girls be better equipped to navigate Girl World.