Bullying continues to be a serious problem encountered in schools and neighborhoods; and impacts individuals, families, and communities. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention considers bullying as a major health problem, and operationally defined bullying among the youth as any unwanted aggressive behavior(s) by another youth or group of youths who are not siblings or current dating partners that involves an observed or perceived power imbalance and is repeated multiple times or is highly likely to be repeated. Bullying can either be direct or indirect, and can come in any form such as physical, verbal, relational, and damage to property.
Victims of bullying report feelings isolation and low self-esteem, do not perform well in school, have a negative view of the school, and do not have a lot of friends in school. They also experience psychosomatic problems such as a headache, stomach ache, and sleeping problems; as well as mental health problems such as thoughts of suicide, depression, and anxiety. The impact of bullying warrants serious study and attention, and it is not enough that parents and school administrators encourage victims to step forward and report the incidents; there should also be efforts in getting to know the bullies and investigate the possible causes of their aggressive behaviors.
Why do bullies bully?
Bullies tend to possess similar characteristics such as impulsivity, short temper, defiance, and aggressiveness towards teachers and parents, lack of empathy towards others who are victimized, physical strength, and having a strong need to dominate others.
Studies have investigated the development of bullies and possible reasons behind their aggression. Among them are the following:
- Learnt behavior at home. Bullies tend to come from homes with parents who are authoritarian and prefer physical means of discipline; who are sometimes hostile and rejecting; who are described as both hostile and permissive, which could mean inconsistent parenting; who have poor problem-solving skills; and who teach children to strike back even at the least provocation.
- Having experienced bullying. Most bullies have experienced being bullied themselves. Their aggressive behavior becomes their defense mechanism in order to avoid being victimized again, thus contributing to a vicious cycle of aggression.
- Stress and Trauma. Those who bully are more likely to have been in stressful or traumatic situations, such as parents getting a divorce, a death of a relative, or gaining another sibling.
- Reinforcement. In some cases, bullies are embraced and reinforced for their behavior. They tend to be popular among their peers. A study conducted on 2,000 students in 11 middle schools in Los Angeles found that “coolness” and “aggression” are highly linked. Those who were ranked by their peers as the “coolest” tend to be the same kids who push people around, start fights, and spread rumors about other kids.
What can be done?
Aggressive behaviors such as bullying are deep-seated. Therefore, intervention in schools and homes must be strengthened. There is a need to change the climate in schools and homes in order for bullying not to be perpetuated and tolerated. Psychologists continue to research and develop bullying intervention programs, and these programs involve creating school and the home environment characterized by:
- Positive interest, warmth, and involvement from adults
- Firm limits on unacceptable behavior
- Consistent application on non-physical and non-punitive sanctions for violation of rules and unacceptable behaviors
- Adults who act as role models and authorities
Even though all states have anti-bullying laws and policies, there is no federal law that specifically applies to bullying. When bullying is based on race, color, religion, or disability; and overlaps with harassment, schools are legally obligated to address it.
Is your child a victim of bullying that resulted in physical injuries? Contact us at Hogan Injury for expert legal advice.
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