1 Greg Wilson 12/7/09 PSY 200 Bullying Educators and teachers all across the globe have to deal with many obstacles and challenges when educating the world s youth population. Depending on what part of the world and the educational system in place, some teachers may face more difficulties than others, but there is one issue that plagues classrooms and hallways of schools throughout the planet: bullying. Bullying is a social interaction that has taken place for hundreds, if not thousands, of years. It can have many different meanings, but it can be easily defined as continued aggression by one student towards another for an extended period of time. For many years, bullying was largely ignored in schools; some even considered it to be natural and beneficial for kids to experience, but new evidence and research has emerged that shows bullying can cause severe damage to both the victim and the aggressor. In order to fully understand the problem that bullying presents in schools, it is important to comprehend what bullying actually consists of. There are many different definitions of bullying, as each researcher or expert coins their own particular definition. One of the most popular definitions given to bullying is a form of aggression in which one student, or a group or students, physically or psychologically abuses a victim over a period of time (Ma, Stewin, & Mah, 2001, p. 248). Another common definition states that bullying is the aggressive behavior arising from the deliberate intent to cause physical or psychological distress to others (Ma et al., 2001, p. 248) The important things to remember from these two definitions are that in order for an aggressive interaction to be considered bullying it must involve intent and take
2 place over a period of time. Another requirement for bullying is that it must involve an imbalance of power; the victim must be selected because he or she is unable to defend himself or herself. This may be due to smaller size, weakness, less psychologically strong, or outnumbered (Sampson, 2009, p. 2). In addition to the aforementioned components of bullying, verbal interactions can also constitute bullying (Dake, Price, Telljohann, 2003, p. 173). Just as bullying can have many different definitions, its practice may occur in a wide variety of forms. There are generally five different categories of bullying behavior that exist; they are: physical bullying, verbal bullying, social bullying, psychological bullying, and cyber bullying. Physical bullying involves physical contact between the bully and victim that is intended to cause harm to the victim; examples of this include: punching, shoving, tripping, grabbing, slapping, pinching, etc. Verbal bullying involves verbal interactions between the bully and the victim. Verbal bullying includes name calling, put-downs, sarcasm, taunting, racial slurs, or inappropriate references to a victim s sexual orientation. Social bullying includes things such as the spread of false rumors or excluding the victim from a social gathering, activity, or sport. Psychological bullying includes things that make a victim feel inferior to the bully, actions that involve the degradation of the victim, or exclusion of the victim. Cyber bullying is a phenomenon that has recently developed with the increase of electronic technologies. This form of bullying includes any type of bullying that occurs through electronic means, such as e- mail, text messages, instant messaging services, Facebook, as well as other electronic mediums (Ma et al., 2001, p. 249). Physical bullying has been found to be the least common form of
3 bullying, but verbal bullying is considered to be the most common form of bullying (Sampson, 2009, pp. 6-7). In addition to the different types of bullying, there are several participants in the bullying process. Most people believe the only participants in bullying are the bully and the victim, but there are others who are involved that play a big role in a bullying interaction. The bully is the individual who initiates and uses a form of aggression against a weaker peer. The victim is the individual who the bully s aggression is directed towards. The other categories of participation are assistants of the bully, reinforcers of the bully, defenders of the victim, and outsiders. Assistants of the bully are students who play an active part in the bullying, but do so as a follower, not a leader. They may be bystanders who join a bully when they see bullying occurring, or they may be individuals who engage in bullying, but do not initiate the interaction. In some cases, they may be just harmful to the victim as the bully. Assistants of the bully are students who laugh at the victim and provide an audience for the bully. Defenders of the victim are individuals who take the side of the victim and actively try to stop the bullying from occurring. Outsiders are those who are uninvolved with the situation, they may be completely uninvolved with the incident or simply stand by and do nothing neither siding with the bully nor the victim (Dake et al., 2003, pp ). With many roles of bullying being defined, it is hard for children to not be involved with bullying while in school. Bullying is a widespread occurrence in schools spanning the globe (Ma et al., 2001, p. 249). Studies conducted throughout the last 20 years have concluded that between 8 and 38 percent of students reported being bullied on a regular basis while attending school and that between five and nine percent of students bully their peers on a regular basis. Of those who
4 reported being bullied, about 8 to 20 percent reported that they were chronic victims of bullying (Sampson, 2009, p. 4). The highest percentage of bullying occurs in elementary schools (Dake et al., 2003, p. 173). In general, male bullies rely on physical bullying more than their female counterparts, who prefer to engage in social or verbal bullying; this may be because girls tend to value social relationships more than boys do at younger ages. Boys are more likely to be bullies than girls and they are likely to bully both male and female peers. On the contrary, girls are usually involved with bullying other girls. When students bully other weaker peers, they tend to do so in partners or groups; bullying by only one individual is less common. Bullying can extend into high school, but for the most part bullying significantly declines around age 15 for boys and age 14 for girls (Sampson, 2009, pp. 6-8). Students who bully their peers tend to come from a household with authoritarian parents and are 1.71 times more likely to have parents who used some form of physical punishment against them (Dake et al., 2003, p. 175). Bullies are also more likely to have poor social problem solving skills, which contribute to confrontation with other students. Some experts even feel that bullies show aggression towards other students to compensate for their poor social skills. Students who engage in bullying are more likely to carry weapons, smoke, drink, and cheat in school compared to their non-bullying students. Bullies are often left unsupervised at home for extended periods of time, have a poor family structure, and are raised in a cold emotional environment. Bullies are also characterized by being impulsive, over sensitive (which leads to their belief that other students provoke them), and having a desire for authority and power (Ma et al., 2001, pp ).
5 Those students who are the victims of bullying are usually nonassertive, they also tend to be socially incompetent and as a result have few friends and are viewed as being unpopular among their peers. One study conducted in the Netherlands found that 51% of kids who said they have no friends are bullied, but only 11% of students who reported they have more than five friends were bullied (Sampson, 2009, p. 12). Kids may be bullied because they have no friends and are seen as unpopular, but having few friends also contributes to being bullied because there are less people to protect a child. Victims of bullying are also more likely to have low self-esteem, be smaller or weaker, be a member of a minority group, be quiet or shy, be seen as different from other students, have poor coping skills, or have an extremely close or uninvolved relationship with their parents. Students who have poor coping skills are more likely to be victims of bullying because when they are bullied they easily exhibit negative emotions. These students are more likely to show signs of frustration, anger, sadness, or even cry. As a result of easily showing these emotions, they give the bully satisfaction, which in turn makes them more likely to be the victim of bullies. Students with extremely close relationships with their parents are likely to be bullied because other students see them as being overprotected or too attached to their parents. Other students may perceive this close relationship as not being cool or acting like a baby, as a result they may be more likely to be bullied. Students who have uninvolved relationships with their parents are more likely to be bullied because they often lack the support of interpersonal relationships which makes them vulnerable to bullies because of their poor social and coping skills (Ma et al., 2001, pp ). Although bullying has occurred in schools for decades, if not centuries, the causes of this social problem are not completely understood. Experts have identified some possible causes,
6 but little research has shown exactly why students bully others. Some of these potential causes include: students see others engaging in bullying, students believe it will make them more popular, it makes the bully feel stronger or superior, prevents a student from being bullied by others, students feel provoked by their victims, students have poor social skills, students have poor problem solving skills, or students are attempting to compensate for another problem (Dake et al., 2003, pp ). While the causes of bullying are less known, the effects of bullying have been more extensively studied. Bullying not only has serious effects on its victims, but the aggressors can also experience significant and long-term consequences. The effects of bullying may stop when a victim is no longer bullied, or they could continue for years after the bullying has ceased. For the aggressors, bullying may lead to future aggressive behaviors. In fact, bullying as a child is a precursor for future aggressive or violent behaviors; one study found that by age 24, 60% of people who were bullies had already been convicted with at least one criminal charge (Harvard Mental Health Letter, 2009, p. 1). Bullies are also more likely to develop depression compared to students uninvolved with bullying. They are 2.8 to 4.3 times more likely to develop symptoms of depression. Bullies are also more likely to become involved with self-destructive behaviors such as alcohol use, drug use, tobacco use, fighting, cheating, stealing, vandalism, and skipping school. Bullies also tend to have lower academic performances compared to those not involved with the bullying process (Dake et al., 2003, pp ). Victims of bullying also show long-term effects, but they tend to be more serious than those that bullies experience. Victims who were repeatedly bullied between the ages of eight and ten were twice as likely as those not involved with bullying to develop psychotic problems as adults (Harvard Mental Health Letter, 2009, p. 1). The most common problem
7 victims of bullying experience is depression, victims of bullying are four times more likely to experience depression when compared to students not involved with bullying. They are also 3.2 to 4.2 times more likely to report high levels of anxiety and 2.1 times more likely to have serious suicide ideation. Victims are more likely to experience neck pain, stomach aches, headaches, and fatigue than non-victims (Dake et al., 2003, pp ). Bully victims show increased rates of insomnia, low self-esteem, social dysfunction, eating disorders, and alcohol or drug abuse. These students are also likely to have poor academic performances and conflicts with their parents. Poor academic results may be a result of skipping school; in one study, 10% of bully victims reported skipping school to avoid bullying and another 29% had seriously considered it. These students may also suffer in the classroom because they are distracted from their learning by constantly being bullied. Victims may also be likely to experience family conflicts because they bring their emotions from being bullied into the family. Kids who are bullied usually bottle up their emotions and then lash out at parents or siblings at home; unfortunately, many families are unaware of their children being bullied, so they punish their children for these tantrums which results in conflicts between parents and the child (Ma et al., 2001, pp ). It is clear that bullying has long lasting negative effects on the children involved, as a result many schools have increased efforts to decrease bullying. There are many programs that have been developed to help prevent and stop bullying, but some have been more successful than others. Schools that have succeeded in reducing bullying have many characteristics in common. These schools have principals that are heavily committed and involved with stopping bullying through means of a comprehensive approach. These schools do not focus on one or
8 two aspects of bullying, but they look at the entire picture to help stop bullying. They develop a school wide policy that addresses direct and indirect bullying, provide guidelines for teachers and staff on specific measures to take if bullying does occur, inform teachers and parents about bullying what it is and its effects, adopt strategies on how to deal with specific bullies and their victims, encourage students to report bullies, encourage students to help victims, and provide counseling for both bullies and victims. The schools that use these strategies are known as practicing a whole-school approach to bullying because everybody involved with the school is included in the plan. Experts also suggest increasing supervision of children, reducing the time kids spend unsupervised, monitoring areas where bullying usually occurs, separating known bullies from their victims, posting signs about bullying and its consequences, training teachers and volunteers, training students in conflict resolution and peer mediation, and developing a zero tolerance policy regarding bullying (Sampson, 2009, pp ). One program that follows the whole-school approach to the prevention of bullying is the Olweus Bullying Prevention Program, it is recognized as the world s leading prevention program. It consists of: a questionnaire to help students and adults become aware of the extent of bullying, parental awareness campaigns to get parents involved, development of classroom rules against bullying, and the development of other anti-bullying programs, things that include counseling with victims and bullies and improved adult supervision (Ma et al., 2001, p. 259). This program was first used in Norway from 1983 to 1985; it involved 42 schools in Bergen, Norway. After the two years the results showed that there was a 50% decrease in the number of bullying cases (Dake et al., p. 178).
9 With this being said, there is clear evidence that bullying is something that can be prevented in schools. It has caused problems for millions of children for many years, but many people fail to understand what constitutes bullying, who takes part in bullying, and the severe detrimental effects it can have on both its aggressors and victims. Bullying is something that educators and parents across the globe must work together to stop in order to promote the well being of millions of children and provide a safe and comfortable learning environment for children in the future.
10 Bibliography (2009). Taking on school bullies. Harvard Mental Health Letter, 26(3), 6-7. Dake, J., Price, J., & Telljohann, S. (2003). The nature and extent of bullying at school. Journal of School Health, 73(5), 173. Ma, X., Stewin, L. & Mah, D. (2001). Bullying in school: nature, effects and remedies. Research Papers in Education, 16(3), Sampson, R. (2009). Bullying in schools. Office of Community Oriented Policing Services, 12(1), 1-24.