Don’t Become a Bully

OVERVIEW

Bullies demonstrate a number of different bad behaviors. They call their peers names with negative connotations, they threaten to cause bodily harm, they spread rumors about other people, and they exclude certain people from their associates. Bullies may also physically attack others.

In an article published in 2015 in the Archives of Public Health, researchers from Sweden wanted to learn more about how teens defined bullying. Web-based questionnaires were completed by a diverse group of 128 teens, and the researchers conducted four single-gender focus group interviews with 21 students (8 females and 13 males) between the ages of 13 and 15 years. The students considered bullying to be something as small as a single hurtful or harmful incident, even one on the Internet. They also addressed the health consequences of bullying. When compared to the younger students, older students reported more types of behaviors as bullying. Males reported fewer bullying behaviors than females. The researchers noted that their findings indicated that “the traditional criteria included in most definitions of bullying may not fully reflect adolescents’ understanding and definition of bullying.” Since teens appeared to have a broader definition of bullying, researchers may actually be failing to identify all bullying that is taking place. 1

It is important to remember that bullying may occur in many different places, including inside schools, outside on playgrounds, at the mall, at a job, and during sporting events. People may be bullied electronically. That is known as electronic bullying or cyberbullying. According to the Web site stopbullying.gov 2

WHAT THE EXPERTS SAY

School-Based Programs and Teachers May Help Students Avoid Becoming Bullies

In a study published in 2012 in the journal Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine, researchers from Baltimore, Maryland, wanted to determine the impact of a bullying prevention program, known as School-Wide Positive Behavioral Intervention and Supports (SWPBIS), on students during their transition into early adolescence. The intervention attempted to accomplish a number of goals, including promoting a positive school environment based on respect, consistent discipline, the positive reinforcement of desired behaviors, and consequences for inappropriate behaviors. Four years of data were obtained from 37 Maryland public elementary schools involving 12,344 children. Slightly over half the children were male; 45.1 percent were African American, and 46.1 percent were white. When the study began, the children were in kindergarten, first grade, and second grade. As the children grew older, their risk for bullying and peer rejection increased. Yet, the researchers learned that the children in the 21 schools that implemented SWPBIS had lower rates of teacher reported bullying, both as victim and perpetrator, and peer rejection than in the 16 schools without SWPBIS. The researchers commented that “as a result of exposure to SWPBIS in elementary school, we anticipate that these children will make the transition to adolescence with a reduced risk for involvement in bullying.” Moreover, “a universal SWPBIS model is a promising approach for preventing bullying.” 3

In a study published in 2014 in the Journal of Educational Psychology, researchers from the Netherlands, Finland, and Australia wanted to learn more about the role that teachers may play in reducing the development of bullying in their students. The cohort consisted of data on 2,776 Finnish students in fourth to sixth grades in 31 different schools. There were almost equal numbers of males and females. Students completed Internet-based questionnaires in which they were asked about the ability of their teachers to reduce bullying. When students perceived that their teachers effectively reduced bullying with a relatively low level of effort, there were reductions in bullying. “If teachers are seen to be efficacious, they are likely to prevent bullying.” The researchers noted that their findings “show that teachers can play an important role in antibullying programs and should be seen as targets of intervention.” 4

Parenting Style Has an Impact on the Development of Bullying

In a study published in 2012 in the Journal of School Violence, a researcher from Greece examined the association between parenting styles and the development of bullying in early adolescence. The researcher noted that previous studies have found that an insecure parenting attachment style and inappropriate parenting tend to predispose children to become bullies. The cohort consisted of 601 Greek preadolescents, almost the same number of boys and girls, between the ages of 10 and 12 years. The researchers found that parenting appeared to play an important role in determining whether a preadolescent became a bully. While the students who reported themselves as being securely attached had less involvement in bullying, the students who saw their parents as cold and indifferent or actually hostile and rejecting were at increased risk for bullying. The researchers concluded that parents need to become educated about family cohesion and conflict resolution. Their increased knowledge may “have a potential impact on children’s behavior and may serve as an indirect intervention in bullying incidents at school.” And, school efforts to prevent bullying should include parents. “Children who perceive low emotional parental warmth, over protection, and high rejection are more likely to exhibit bullying behaviors.” 5

BARRIERS AND PROBLEMS

The Children and Teens of Parents Who Display Negative Parenting Behavior Are at Increased Risk for Becoming Victims or Victims Who Bully Others

In a meta-analysis published in 2013 in the journal Child Abuse & Neglect, researchers from the United Kingdom wanted to learn more about the association between negative parenting behavior and the risk of becoming a victim or a victim who bullies others. The researchers conducted a systematic review of the relevant literature. Seventy studies were included in the final analysis. These studies represented a total of 208,778 children, teens, and young adults between the ages of 4 and 25 years. The researchers learned that victims and bullies who become victims were more likely to have been exposed to negative parenting, such as abuse, neglect, and maladaptive parenting. The researchers suggested that intervention programs that target children exposed to harsh or abusive parenting may help reduce the risk of a negative outcome. 6

Teens Who Have a Negative Body Image Are More Likely to Become Bullies 7

Bullies Appear to Have Some Advantages

In a study published online in 2015 in the Journal of Interpersonal Violence, researchers from Canada examined evolutionary aspects of adolescent bullying behaviors. Over a two-week period of time in February 2014, the researchers administered questionnaires to 133 teens, between the ages of 13 and 16 years, from one secondary school in metro Vancouver, British Columbia. The vast majority of the students were white. The students were then placed in one of four groups—bullies, victims, bully/victims, or bystanders. The researchers classified 15 students as bullies or 11 percent of the total sample. Almost three-quarters of the bullies were males. The students were evaluated for depression, self-esteem, social status, and social anxiety. The researchers determined that the bullies had the most positive scores on mental health measures and held the highest social rank in the school environment. According to the researchers, maybe that is why programs that attempt to alter bullying behavior are not always effective and why this “pervasive problem” continues to exist. Intervention programs tend to take away the rewards of bullying without offering any way that bullies may reach their goals. The researchers commented that bullying may well be “a natural phenomenon that works to establish rank and maximize survival of the species.” The researchers advocated “shifting the scope to implement strategies that allow ‘bullying’ to occur with a lower level of harm.” 8

Children from Socioeconomically Disadvantaged Families Have an Increased Risk of Involvement in Bullying 9

NOTES

1. L. Hellström, L. Persson, and C. Hagquist, “Understanding and Defining Bullying—Adolescents’ Own Views,” Archives of Public Health 73, no. 1 (2015): 4+.

2. stopbullying.gov.

3. Tracy E. Waasdorp, Catherine P. Bradshaw, and Philip J. Leaf, “The Impact of Schoolwide Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports on Bullying and Peer Rejection,” Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine 166, no. 2 (2012): 149-56.

4. R. Veenstra, S. Lindenberg, G. Huitsing et al., “The Role of Teachers in Bullying: The Relation Between Antibullying Attitudes, Efficacy, and Efforts to Reduce Bullying,” Journal of Educational Psychology 106, no. 4 (2014): 1135-43.

5. Constantinos M. Kokkinos, “Bullying and Victimization in Early Adolescence: Associations with Attachment Style and Perceived Parenting,” Journal of School Violence 12 (2013): 174-92.

6. Suzet Tanya Lereya, Muthanna Samara, and Dieter Wolke, “Parenting Behavior and the Risk of Becoming a Victim and a Bully/Victim: A Meta-Analysis Study,” Child Abuse & Neglect 37 (2013): 1091-108.

7. Jana Holubcikova, Peter Kolarcik, Andrea Madarasova Geckova et al., “Is Subjective Perception of Negative Body Image Among Adolescents Associated with Bullying?” European Journal of Pediatrics 174, no. 8 (2015): 1035-41.

8. Jun-Bin Koh and Jennifer S. Wong, “Survival of the Fittest and the Sexiest: Evolutionary Origins of Adolescent Bullying,” Journal of Interpersonal Violence (July 2015).

9. Pauline W. Jansen, Marina Verlinden, Anke Dommisse-van Berkel et al., “Prevalence of Bullying and Victimization Among Children in Early Elementary School: Do Family and School Neighborhood Socioeconomic Status Matter?” BMC Public Health 12 (2012): 494+.

REFERENCES AND RESOURCES

Magazines, Journals, and Newspapers

Bowllan, Nancy M. “Implementation and Evaluation of a Comprehensive, School-Wide, Bullying Prevention Program in an Urban/Suburban Middle School.” Journal of School Health 81, no. 4 (2011): 167-73.

Hellström, L., L. Persson, and C. Hagquist. “Understanding and Defining Bullying—Adolescents’ Own Views.” Archives of Public Health 73, no. 1 (2015): 4+.

Holubcikova, Jana, Peter Kolarcik, Andrea Madarasova Geckova et al. “Is Subjective Perception of Negative Body Image Among Adolescents Associated with Bullying?” European Journal of Pediatrics 174, no. 8 (2015): 1035-41.

Jansen, Pauline W., Marina Verlinden, Anke Dommisse-van Berkel et al. “Prevalence of Bullying and Victimization Among Children in Early Elementary School: Do Family and School Neighborhood Socioeconomic Status Matter?” BMC Public Health 12 (2012): 494+.

Koh, Jun-Bin, and Jennifer S. Wong. “Survival of the Fittest and the Sexiest: Evolutionary Origins of Adolescent Bullying.” Journal of Interpersonal Violence (July 2015).

Kokkinos, Constantinos M. “Bullying and Victimization in Early Adolescence: Associations with Attachment Style and Perceived Parenting.” Journal of School Violence 12 (2013): 174-92.

Lereya, Suzet Tanya, Muthanna Samara, and Dieter Wolke. “Parenting Behavior and the Risk of Becoming a Victim and a Bully/Victim: A Meta-Analysis Study.” Child Abuse & Neglect 37 (2013): 1091-108.

Veenstra, R., S. Lindenberg, G. Huitsing et al. “The Role of Teachers in Bullying: The Relation Between Antibullying Attitudes, Efficacy, and Efforts to Reduce Bullying.” Journal of Educational Psychology 106, no. 4 (2014): 1135-43.

Verinden, M., P. W. Jansen, R. Veenstra et al. “Preschool Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity and Oppositional Defiant Problems as Antecedents of School Bullying.” Journal of the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry 54, no. 7 (2015): 571-79.

Waasdorp, Tracy E., Catherine P. Bradshaw, and Philip J. Leaf. “The Impact of Schoolwide Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports on Bullying and Peer Rejection.” Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine 166, no. 2 (2012): 149-56.

Young, Kevin C., Todd B. Kashdan, Patrick E. McKnight et al. “Happy and Unhappy Adolescent Bullies: Evidence for Theoretically Meaningful Subgroups.” Personality and Individual Differences 75 (2015): 224-28.

Web Site

Stopbullying.gov .

  This information is not a tool for self-diagnosis or a substitute for professional care.