Epidemic

In the aftermath of fatal school shootings in Littleton, Colorado; Springfield, Oregon; West Paducah, Kentucky; and Jonesboro, Arkansas, all of America wondered what could drive young people to such acts of violence. We now know that bullying may be part of the cause. In the 2002 Safe Schools Initiative report, the U.S. Secret Service and Department of Education found that in 37 school shootings from 1974 to 2000, "Almost three-quarters of the attackers felt persecuted, bullied, threatened, attacked or injured by others prior to the incident." Thankfully school shootings are still rare, but they do spotlight one of the most serious consequences of bullying—those seeking retaliation.

Because many students don't tell their teachers or other adults they are being bullied, it is an underreported problem. From the data available, we know it is a problem of epidemic proportions and research indicates that it is on the rise. The National Association of School Psychologists called bullying "the most common form of violence in society." Bullying affects children's mental and physical health, attendance and school performance. Sometimes, as was the case at Columbine High School in Colorado, the consequences of bullying can be deadly.

A person is bullied when he or she is exposed repeatedly and over time to negative actions on the part of one or more other persons and he or she has difficulty defending himself or herself. Student bullying is pervasive. In the first nationally representative U.S. study of bullying, comprising more than 15,000 students in grades 6–10, 17 percent of students reported having been bullied "sometimes" or more often during the school term, and 8 percent had been bullied at least once a week. Nineteen percent had bullied others "sometimes" or more often during the school term. Beyond the perpetration of violence, bullying also has serious physical and mental health consequences.

Hoover and R. O. Oliver found that 25 percent of students in grades 4 through 8 experienced academic troubles as a result of bullying. Children who are bullied are five times more likely to be depressed and suicidal and students who bully are more likely to fight, drink, and smoke than their non-bullying peers. Students who bully are four times as likely to have three or more criminal convictions by age twenty-four.

What Is Bullying

Before we can discuss why people bully, need to have a clear understanding of what bullying is. Some consider bullying to be purposeful attempts to control another person through verbal abuse - which can be in tone of voice or in content such as teasing or threats - exclusion, or physical bullying or violence, which the victim does not want. While some ties the feature of "peer abuse" and "repeated activity" into the definition of bullying, others acknowledge single instances and age difference in their definitions of bullying. Bullying occurs in schools, workplaces, in homes, on playgrounds, in the military, and in nursing homes, for example. In the article "Uncovering the hidden causes of bullying and school violence" published inCounseling and Human Development in February, 2000, Barry K. Weinhold states that bullying is the most common type of violence in contemporary US society. Although a form of harassment, bullying is considered to be a separate category from sexual harassment.

Why Do People Bully?

There are a variety of reasons why people bully.

Cultural Causes of Bullying

In a culture that is fascinated with winning, power, and violence, some experts suggest that it is unrealistic to expect that people will not be influenced to seek power through violence in their own lives. Researchers point to the World Wrestling Federation (WWF) as glorification of bullies in the name of entertainment and point out that the high rate of domestic violence means that many young people grow up expecting that violence is an acceptable way to get what one wants.

Institutional Causes

If the institution at which the bullying takes place - whether the home, the school, or the workplace - does not have high standards for the way people treat each other, then bullying may be more likely and/or prevalent and have an influence on why people bully.

Social Issues

The fact that one gets more social recognition for negative behaviors than for positive ones can also contribute to reasons why people bully. Situation comedies and reality television, as well as real life situations in schools, for example, show that acting out is more likely to get noticed than behaving oneself civilly and courteously. Jealousy or envy and a lack of personal and social skills to deal with such feelings can also be reasons why people bully.

Family Issues

Families that are not warm and loving and in which feelings are not shared are more likely to have children who bully, either within the family home or in other locations in which the children meet others. Another home environment that is prone to producing bullies is one in which discipline and monitoring are inconsistent and/or a punitive atmosphere exists.

The Bully's Personal History

Children who experience social rejection themselves are more likely to "pass it on" to others. Children who experience academic failure are also more likely to bully others.

Having Power

Some research indicates that the very fact of having power may make some people wish to wield it in a noticeable way, but it is also true that people may be given power without being trained in the leadership skills that will help them wield it wisely. Either situation can contribute to why people bully others.

Provocative Victims

People who are annoying and condescending to others and/or aggressive verbally, or in other ways that are not picked up by those in authority, may contribute to the dynamic that can be characterized as bullying by one individual but actually grows out of provocation by another individual.

Unreliable Reports

According to The University of Bergen in Norway in "The nature and causes of bullying at work," because most reports of bullying come from a victim, in cases in which there is a provocative victim or the so-called bullying stems from a dispute between the parties or other pre-existing interpersonal conflict, outside evidence should be gathered before it is concluded that bullying has taken place.

So, why do people bully? There are many reasons. But, one thing is clear regardless of why people bully, any type of bullying needs to come to an end.

Dealing With Bullying

Dealing with bullying, or a bully, can be difficult and traumatic for people of any age. If you are a victim of bullying, or fear your child or teen is being bullied, this article is a must read. It contains tips for dealing with a bully and helping understand bullying is not acceptable.

Bullying can be a very traumatic experience for your child. It can cause physical and emotional harm, and damage your child for a long time to come. Indeed, a victim of bullying can suffer from physical injury, but the long lasting effects to someone's psyche can be even more damaging in the long term, even though these effects might be subtle. It is also important to note that bullying can take place without physical contact. Emotional, verbal and electronic (online or through text messaging on cell phones) abuse can cause the same emotional and psychological effects as physical bullying. Being bullied can lead to difficulty in forming healthy personal relationships, as well as leading to depression, low self image and even suicide.

The American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry bullying statistics estimate that about half of all children are bullied at some point during their school years. Close to 10 percent of children are bullied repeatedly. This is a rather large number, when you think about it. This means that it is vital that your child learns how to deal with bullying.

Tips for dealing with bullying, or a bully

It can be difficult to deal with bullying, or a bully. It is more helpful when a bully's parents and school are involved as well, working to help diffuse the situation. If you are concerned that your child is the victim of bullying, here are six steps you can take to try and help him or her in dealing with bullying:

  1. Get your child's input: You need to be a safe place your child can turn for help when dealing with bullying. Be open to your child, and make sure that you are accepting. You should let your child know that being bullied is not his or her fault. Also, you should find out what has been tried to stop the bullying, and what has worked (or hasn't worked) so far.
  2. Talk to the school authorities: Discuss the problem with your child's teacher, principal or counselor. A meeting with all three can help everyone know how to help a child who is dealing with bullying. In many cases, bullying takes place in unsupervised areas, such as school buses, bathrooms, playgrounds and other areas that can be hard to monitor. If you know where the bullying is taking place, you can let school authorities know so that they can step up "patrols" in those areas to discourage bullying.
  3. Teach your child to avoid the bully: Your child does not need to fight back. Encourage him or her to avoid the bully when possible. Suggest that he or she walk away, and go find a teacher or other trusted adult.
  4. Encourage your child to be assertive: It is not necessary to fight back to defeat a bully. You can teach your child to stand up straight and tell the bully, firmly, to leave him or her alone. In some cases, this type of assertiveness will work.
  5. Practice with your child: It might be beneficial to have a little bit of role play with your child. This way he or she can practice what to say to a bully, or how to leave a situation that could turn into bullying.
  6. Teach your child to move in groups: A good support system can be an effective deterrent against bullies. Have your child go to school and other places with trusted and true friends when dealing with bullying.

It is also important to help your children and their friends understand that it is not acceptable to harm others, physically, emotionally, verbally or electronically (cyberbullying). Indeed, you should teach your child to stand up to bullies who may be harasses other children. If your child and his or her friends are willing to come to the aid of others who are being bullied, soon the bully will have no one left to pick on.

Another important aspect of dealing with bullying is to watch your own child for signs that he or she might be a bully. It can be difficult to see such behavior in your own child, but you need to take bullying seriously, and let your child know that it is inappropriate. If your child is a bully, take the time to find out why he or she may be acting this way. In some cases, a child psychologist or developmental expert can help you figure out the reasons behind the behavior and work to change these behaviors.

Bullying can have long lasting effects on people. What happens during childhood can set the tone for the rest of one's life, and it is important that bullying is dealt with early on.

Spotting A Bully

Most bullying is traceable to one person, male or female - bullying is not a gender issue. Bullies are often clever people (especially female bullies) but you can be clever too.

Pinpoint who does this by going over these characteristics of a bully at school and/or workplace

  • Jekyll & Hyde nature - vicious and vindictive in private, but innocent and charming in front of witnesses; no-one can (or wants to) believe this individual has a vindictive nature - only the current target sees both side
  • Is a convincing, compulsive liar and when called to account, will make up anything spontaneously to fit their needs at that moment
  • Uses lots of charm and is always plausible and convincing when peers, superiors or others are present; the motive of the charm is deception and its purpose is to compensate for lack of empathy
  • Relies on mimicry to convince others that they are a "normal" human being but their words, writing and deeds are hollow, superficial and glib
  • Displays a great deal of certitude and self-assuredness to mask their insecurity
  • Excels at deception
  • Exhibits unusual inappropriate attitudes to sexual matters or sexual behaviour; underneath the charming exterior there are often suspicions or intimations of sexual harassment, sex discrimination or sexual abuse (sometimes racial prejudice as well)
  • Exhibits much controlling behaviour and is a control freak
  • Displays a compulsive need to criticise whilst simultaneously refusing to acknowledge, value and praise others
  • When called upon to share or address the needs and concerns of others, responds with impatience, irritability and aggression
  • Often has an overwhelming, unhealthy and narcissistic need to portray themselves as a wonderful, kind, caring and compassionate person, in contrast to their behaviour and treatment of others; the bully is oblivious to the discrepancy between how they like to be seen (and believe they are seen), and how they are actually seen
  • Has an overbearing belief in their qualities of leadership but cannot distinguish between leadership (maturity, decisiveness, assertiveness, trust and integrity) and bullying (immaturity, impulsiveness, aggression, distrust and deceitfulness)
  • When called to account, immediately and aggressively denies everything, then counter-attacks with distorted or fabricated criticisms and allegations; if this is insufficient, quickly feigns victimhood, often by bursting into tears (the purpose is to avoid answering the question and thus evade accountability by manipulating others through the use of guilt)
  • Is also ... aggressive, devious, manipulative, spiteful, vengeful, doesn't listen, can't sustain mature adult conversation, lacks a conscience, shows no remorse, is drawn to power, emotionally cold and flat, humourless, joyless, ungrateful, dysfunctional, disruptive, divisive, rigid and inflexible, selfish, insincere, insecure, immature and deeply inadequate, especially in interpersonal skills

I estimate one person in thirty has this behaviour profile. I describe them as having a disordered personality: an aggressive but intelligent individual who expresses their violence psychologically (constant criticism etc) rather than physically (assault).

Female Bullying

There are many different types of bullying including female bullying. The classic type of bullying includes the mean boy on the playground, but now it is clear female bullying is just as prominent and severe as bullying with males. Female bullying can sometimes even be worse.

With cases of bullying on the rise, it is becoming more apparent than ever that female bullying is just as common as bullying with males. It is a common misconception that boys and teen males are the most dominant types of bullies. In fact, girls can be just as ruthless especially when it comes to the type of bullying that is not as physical. Types of bullying like cyberbullying are often spearheaded by teen girls placing an attack on their peers verbally. However, harsh words, lies and rumors can be just as devastating to a child or teen as being physically attacked. These types of female bullying may include:

Physical bullying and hazing:

In recent news headlines, there have been cases of female bullying where teen girls will physically gang up on one another and attack. This type of behavior has been happening for decades and likely even before that. However, now that bullying is becoming more and more recognized, cases of female bullying have increased. Physical bullying can also include more than just hitting, punching, kicking or otherwise injuring another person. It can also include stealing from another person or damaging their personal property. Types of hazing by forcing others to do something embarrassing or harmful to themselves or others is also another type of physical bullying. While males typically take the wrap for such behaviors, females can also have just as a devastating impact on their peers.

Cyberbullying and verbal bullying:

Females are most typically associated with these types of bullying behaviors. Verbal bullying is also a very common type of bullying that almost everyone is guilty of at some point in time or another. Simple name calling may not be considered a big deal, but it is still a type of bullying. Verbal bullying, whether it is said face-to-face, behind someone's back or over the Internet, can still be devastating to those who are targeted.

Indirect bullying and social alienation:

Although there are no hard statistics to support the number of female bullies versus male bullies, socially speaking, there are certain types of bullying females have a tendency to enact more so than males. One of these types of bullying is indirect bullying. This takes place when a person or group of people spread rumors and stories about a person behind their back. These can be false and malicious attacks. Indirect bullying accounts for about 18 percent of all cases of bullying. Cyberbullying also comes into play with this type of bullying because teens may spread lies or stories about another individual online anonymously. It is still considered bullying. Social alienation is also another type of bullying that females can be responsible for committing. A group of girls may decide to deliberately shun another girl from the group because they are mad at her or find it funny to hurt another person simply because they are different.

Female bullying can be just as common as male bullying although it may take on a different form. Parents should not assume that just because their child is female that they won't have a tendency to become a bully. Be on the lookout that your child is behaving rude and malicious manner by watching how they interact with others. If they show signs of resentment or engage in a power struggle, they might have issues with bullying. Also as a parent, be sure to talk to your child about bullying to ensure they know what bullying is so they don't abuse others in any type of bullying. Putting a stop to bullying behaviors with both female bullying as well as male bullying is the only way to cut down on the amount of children, teens and adults traumatized by bullying behaviors. Talking to your children is the best way to find out if they are having issues with bullying at school, after school or online. Keeping this line of communication open is important because it helps your child to know they can come to for help.

Some of the best ways to prevent bullying of any kind is to help build your child's self-esteem. Children and teens with higher self-esteem and more friends are less likely to become the victims of bullying. Unfortunately there are still many cases of bullycide among teens and children. Bullycide occurs when teens or children commit suicide as a result of bullying attacks. It is up to parents, teachers and other authority figures to put a stop to bullying before it begins so these unfortunate and tragic cases no longer occur.