A number of factors related to bullying often come as a surprise to people. First, kids who do the bullying are not the stereotypical antisocial hoodlums. Very often these kids can move among various roles: bully, popular kid, smart kid, jock, etc. They can be members of multiple groups. Second, they do not bully all of the time, so they have friends and social groups – and, this is interesting, they often report having been bullied as well. Third, while boys tend to engage in more physical bullying than girls, girls are masters at relational aggression (e.g., spreading rumors, excluding a girl from the group, withdrawing friendship). The intent of this social manipulation is to cause damage to another kid’s social standing or self esteem. When you include both physical and relational aggression into the mix, gender differences between bullying in boys and girls disappears. Regardless, bullying of both forms indicates forms of aggressive behavior that occur within a context of an imbalance of power, are intentionally harmful, and occur repetitively.
The consequences of bullying are tremendous for victims: higher rates of depression, stress, isolation, anxiety, and in some cases suicidal ideation. Peer relationships are disrupted, and the disruption can persist into adulthood with these individuals having difficulty developing and maintaining relationships and trusting others.
Interventions to decrease bullying in school settings generally involve: arranging or altering the environment to minimize the circumstances which allow bullying to occur (this could be as simple as having teachers standing at their classroom doors during class transitions to monitor the hallways), training teachers and other school personnel how to identify and respond quickly if they observe bullying, establishing rules and specific consequences for certain forms of misbehavior or problem behavior which are consistently applied, and developing a solution-oriented mindset where teachers and staff can share solutions that they have found successful in reducing the problem behavior.
I will continue with how The Cold Spot got me thinking about bullying in the next blog…