Bullying is considered repeated acts over time that involves an imbalance of power between individuals. It can be verbal harassment, physical assault, coercion, manipulation, ignoring, or even subtler acts. Usually, psychologists find, bullying is done to coerce others by fear or threat, and occurs more often than one would imagine in the early years of elementary school ("Student Reports of Bullying," 2001). There is a pervading assumption that bullying is a "normal" part of childhood and encompasses nothing more than minor harassment, more recent and long-term studies have found that intensive bullying in elementary school may have lasting psychological effects well throughout school age, and into adulthood (Nansel, et.al,, 2001, 2003). Overall, the statistics are staggering, and surprising:
White, non-Hispanic students are more likely than other ethnic minority children to be bullied but a factor of 5%.
In an average school, 15% of White and 8-10% non-White, for a total of 25% of the school report being bullied.
Younger students are more likely to be bullied, (up to 24% in 6th grade, but down to 7% by 12th).
Gangs have a prominent effect on the incidence and severity of bullying; but if school is supervised by hall monitors, police officers or security personnel, the incident drops by 40-50%
Victims of bullying are more likely to experience a criminal victimization at school, and more prone to being attacked off school grounds; thus making them fearful of certain areas and events.
Psychological health, grade point average, and participation in both in school and after school events are mitigated by bullying ("2001 Crime Supplement," statistical overview).
What is surprising in these findings points to the fact that the statistics regarding bullying are not, as one might expect, focused predominantly on boys. While boys and girls mature and socially interact differently, 30-40% of the bullying reported above occurs with "mean girls," or girls who bully. Because of the manner in which girls socialize, sometimes it is more difficult to recognize girl bullies, at least at a younger age. The tactics, in fact, used by "mean girls" are somewhat distorted versions of socio-psychological development. For instance, when girls bully, they use tactics like alienation, ostracism, deliberate and calculated random exclusions, and deliberate gossip and rumor used to harass (Simmons, 2003). Bullying is on the rise, dramatically increasing for a variety of psychological reasons that are still being debated. Some say it is the increasing amount of violence in video games and on television; others say it is a lack of appropriate interaction on the playground and more opportunities, still others say that there is a social consequence to the manner in which computers and social networking sites (Facebook, Twitter, etc.) allow for more subtle forms of bullying:
When boys bully, it is usually easier to spot -- physical violence, name calling, roughness, and aggressive and outward physical behaviors. Girls are more psychological, more emotional, and less forgiving and in for the long-term approach. Mean girls enjoy exerting control by inciting other children to gang up or act aggressively while they watch. They form hierarchical groups that pick and choose members at random and exclude others without real reason. And, they are notorious for acting congenial when teachers or adults are near, then quickly reverting to emotional torture at other times (Senn and Bowman, 207; Randall and Bowmann, 2007). The seminal question though, asks what happens to children who are excessively bullied as they mature? Are there cognitive effects? Learning issues? Or even difficulties with socialization and interaction because of a pattern of bullying at an early age.
The Problem -- Bullying in School - There are three prominent conditions that must exist within a school situation to encourage bullying: the individual or group that perceives itself in power and attempts to victimize others; a location that has little or no adult supervision; and, the potential victim -- a student or group that is somehow substantially weaker or more disenfranchised than classmates. At times, effective bullying feeds on a fourth element -- student bystanders. These alternative groups chose whether to assist the victim by challenging the bullying, or to encourage the bullying behavior by acting in an emotional feeding frenzy (Wright, 2003, 3).
One of the more difficult issues surrounding girl bullying, or the mean girl syndrome, is that it is often difficult to identify from a distance. Most adults are far slower to react to girl bullying, and have the mindset that not all children will be friends, that the social structure of the school system encourages groups, and that, like the outside world, school reinforces the idea of social hierarchy. This is certainly true -- it is normal for children to form social groups and include/exclude others. However, it becomes bullying when these groups use power to intentionally hurt or harass others. Having a group of friends is normal; having friends who work to please the group leader by their meanness to others is another (Karres, 2004).
Also unlike boys, mean girls tend to work in packs. At a young age it is so incredibly hurtful to be excluded on the playground, at lunch, or even within the class environment. Yet this preponderance of emotional violence is a powerful, and sadistic tool. Typical mean girl behavior makes one feel aliened and isolated from the school society (Dellasega, 2003). Tactics include:
anonymous prank phone calls or harassing emails from dummy accounts playing jokes or tricks designed to embarrass and humiliate deliberate exclusion of other children for no real reason whispering in front of others with the intent to make them feel left out name calling, rumor spreading and other malicious verbal interactions being friends one week and then turning against a peer the next week with no incident or reason for the alienation encouraging other kids to ignore or pick on a specific child inciting others to act out violently or aggressively
Finding solutions for school bullying can be difficult and often requires that several adult professionals work together to change the bullying behavior. It first requires an empathetic and consistent approach by the adult in charge, and also necessitates active teaching and follow-up to prevent recurrence. One teacher suggests the 3-R's program, playing off the old adage about what was important to learn in school (Nansel, 2001
1. Restitution -- Adults actively help the child fix what is broken and work with children to teach them how and why to take responsibility for their own actions.
2. Resolution -- Develop plans to prevent future trouble that conditions with positive acts, thus building self-esteem and optimism.
3. Reconciliation -- Teaching to heal those who are harmed; victims, bystanders and others who have been pulled into the matrix (Jones, 2008; Davis, 2009).
Thus, instead of a fear-based paradigm of threats or intimidation, the 3-R approach allows a positive, proactive plan to be in place that becomes part of the interactive approach to learning. It benefits the entire community, healing takes more time to see results, but in the long run, the results tend to stabilize.
Finally, one of the most promising tactics regarding bullying is the preventative approach. As educators, we know at some time bullying behavior will be part of the classroom culture. So, in order to minimize the effects, and perhaps prevent a serious outbreak, using resources to teach anti-aggressive behavior (films, movies, cartoons); coupled with a regular mechanism within the classroom culture to allow for free expression and discussion, will draw attention to unacceptable behaviors and allow for greater intervention. In particular, many psychologists suggest that teachers focus on bystander behavior in school situations. Teach children to observe bullying to act in such a way that the bullying behavior is discouraged, including any social or psychological torture that might be covert. By encouraging bystanders to take part in positive behavioral intervention, at least half of school bullying may be stopped before it has a chance to spread. Teaching moral behavior and rewarding empathy will also have effects upon other areas of the student's life. After all -- who wouldn't want to be a "playground hero" (Rigby, 2007).
Characteristics of the Bully/Victim -- Certainly each different psychological profile of a person who bullies and a person who is bullied is slightly different. However, there are some characteristics that tend to occur in these personalities that often manifest into adulthood. For instance, children who bully:
Are often excited by their behavior and enjoy the sense of power and control that comes over them.
They tend to lack compassion and enjoy causing pain, almost sadistic in that they are calm when hurting others, blaming the victim for being a victim.
Tend to be average students with a small network of friends.
Are often successful at hiding their bullying behavior.
When boys, use physical force, insults, and threats.
When girls rely on social alienation and intimidation (exclusion, threatening, or other forms of psychological torture).
Similarly, there are different types of victimized behavior that measurable psychological characteristics. The passive victim:…