School Bullying (Part 4 of 5)

Characteristics of Bullies:

TYPICALLY, school bullies are aggressive and intensely impulsive, and their behavior may be fueled by their own physical strength or strong social position. However, even if small in stature, male or female bullies given the right skills and social standing can manipulate others. Although no single factor determines bully behavior, several influences may explain why some students bully at school:

Family dynamics (how family members relate to one another) teach important first and enduring lessons for a child. A family that uses bullying as a relationship tool teaches a child that bullying is an acceptable way to relate to others and to get what he/she wants or needs. Children raised in a home where family members use “put-downs,” sarcasm, and criticism, or where they are subjected to repeated frustration or rejection, or where they are witnesses to the abuse of another family member come to believe the world is hostile and see striking back as their only means of survival.

Media images and messages influence the way one perceives bullying. Bullying and harassment are often portrayed as humorous or as acceptable behavior. Some examples of ways in which media glorify bullying include “reality TV,” some talk shows, “shock jocks” on the radio, and popular movies and video games—all of which use embarrassment, humiliation, and the destruction of others as “entertainment.” Images of violence in the media may also be seen as a justification for violent and abusive behavior in real-life relationships. It is strongly believed that youths see images or popular role models in the media that support the idea that success can be achieved by being aggressive.

Peer norms can actively or passively promote the idea that bullying is “no big deal.” It is typical for peers to stand by during an incident of bullying and, through their silence, indirectly conspire with the bully. Secondary targets may ignore and avoid the bully situation to protect themselves. Sometimes, both perpetrators and bystanders believe that bullying may teach the target how he/she should behave within the established norms.

Gender Differences

Physical attacks are typically three to four times more likely to come from boys. Concept of a “boy code” that interferes with boys’ ability to effectively communicate. In boys there is a tendency to especially harass other boys who do not meet the “macho” expectations of what a “man” should be.

Girls often demonstrate great cruelty in more subtle forms of harassment. Girls are generally more likely to use methods that would affect the social standing of a target, such as exclusion, manipulation of friendships, or spreading of rumors.

On Monday, we’ll examine what both children and adults can do to combat bullying.

Presentation prepared by ACS Executive Director, Dr. Philippe Rey

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