Bullying is severely underestimated and misinterpreted. In fact, over the last few decades, the prevalence
of bullying has mushroomed in the United States (Limber, 2004). The general perception when I was a kid was that it was just "what kids do." Although we'd like to think that
things have changed, that mindset is still prevalent today because kids aren't
reporting bullying. In fact, a recent
study was able to demonstrate that adolescents are reluctant to report bullying
to parents and school administrators (Agatston, Kowalski, & Limber, 2007).
As you can see from the photo on the left, it was kind of
hard for my son to hide this from me. He
told me that a kid at school wanted him to "get out of his seat." My son said no, so the kid tried to hit him
with a gaming device he was holding in his hand. My son held up his arm to block himself and
knocked the kids gaming device out of his hand and onto the floor. This angered the kid even more, so he wacked
my son with the case to his device and the zipper broke the skin right next to
his eye. My son got up and went to the
nurse. I suppose in the end, the kid got
his seat. (Image courtesy of Ephraim Stockwell ©2013.)
Needless to say, I wanted to talk to someone at the school
and was directed to the assistant principal.
This is when the true disappointment began. The asst. principal explained to me that in order
for the school to deem an event as bullying, there must be a history. One time incidents are just that, only incidents. He was sorry that my son was hurt, but the
witnesses did say that it looked like an accident. After all, the kid only meant to intimidate
my son, not make him bleed. WHAT?
He told me that he couldn't do anything unless it happened
again and hurried off the phone as if I was bothering him. He told me that if I wanted to further pursue
the issue that I could contact the Police Department and file a harassment suit.
Bullying is often dismissed by authority figures and
intervention is often resisted by staff and parents (Limber, 2004). Olweus (1991) explained that "it is no longer
possible to avoid taking action about bullying problems at school using lack of
awareness as an excuse--it all boils down to a matter of will and involvement on
the part of adults" (p. 415).
Adults underestimate the significant costs that will affect
the children socially, emotionally, and academically as a result of bullying
(Chase, 2001). As a result they tend to
make comments such as "Kids will be kids", "It's a normal part of growing up",
and "Kids need to deal with bullying on their own" (Limber 2004). Why do they do it? Well, research has shown that children who
bully have been known to lack parental warmth and involvement, lack
supervision, lack clear and consistent rules to guide their behavior, and are
subjected to harsh and/or corporal punishment (Limber, 2004). In a similar finding, children who grow up
with punitive, aggressive parents tend to be prone toward violence when they
grow up (Vissing, Straus, Gelles, & Harrop, 1991).
Social learning theory posits that we learn how to behave
socially through the observation of others and imitation of their behavior
(Aronson, Wilson, & Akert, 2010, p. 365).
Having already made the point that children with aggressive parents tend
to become bullies as a result of the environment in which they were raised,
bullying is also a learned behavior.
Kids learn from watching.
Because groups have certain expectations about how members
of that group should behave, members who wish to remain in good standing with
the group will conform to these rules.
All adolescents are trying to find their place with their peers. If a peer is bullying, they are highly
unlikely to intervene in order to remain in good standing. Although they may not agree with what is
happening (private acceptance) they will go along with the bullying in order to
remain in good standing with the group (public compliance of normative social
influence.) Because a school's moral
climate--the appropriateness of aggression derived from the people in a social
situation (Alexitch, 2012)--is determined by both students and teachers, this norm can carry even higher consequences if it is
Bullying is a community-wide problem (Olweus, 1991). Students, teachers and, sadly, even parents
contribute to its occurrence. Without a
permanent, long-term community program, there can be no
effective solution to bullying (Limber, 2004; Aronson, Wilson, & Akert,
2010, p. 374).
Agatston, P. W.,
Kowalski, R., Limber, S. P. (2007). Students' Perspectives on Cyber Bullying. Journal of Adolescent Health, (41)6
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& Hilgard, E. R. (1981). Theories of
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Bully-proofing Our Schools: To eliminate bullying, first we must agree not to
tolerate it. National Education
Association. Retrieved from http://www.patcom.com/pdf/Bullyproofing.pdf.
Limber, S. P.
(2004). Implementation of the Olweus bullying prevention program in American
schools: lessons learned from the field.
In D. L. Espelage, & S. M. Swearer (Eds.), Bullying in American schools: a social-ecological perspective on
prevention and intervention (pp. 351-363). Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum
(1991). Bully/victim problems among school children: Basic facts and effects of
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