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Why is bullying hard to change?

Updated on Feb 11, 2009

Bullying is a complex and age-old problem with many factors causing its prevalence in our schools. Understanding these factors is the first step to solving the problem of bullying. Also understanding the powers struggles that lead to bullying means a greater chance of finding methods to help stop it.

  • Bullying others is a way of feeling powerful. Children need a positive way to feel their personal power.1
  • Bullying others is a tool for gaining popularity. Children need a different way to feel popular. The challenge is to redirect the child’s leadership potential from negative bullying behaviors to positive leadership skills and opportunities.2
  • It takes two. The aggressor-victim relationship can involve a complex dynamic between two children. Aggressor-victim relationships may form when a potential aggressor finds a victim who can be successfully dominated because the victim is weaker, has few friends who will stick up for the him or her , and shows signs of suffering (such as crying).3
  • Social aggression is learned behavior. Research documented from early childhood through mid-adolescence suggests that social aggression or bullying may be more of a learned behavior than physical aggression.4
  • Peer group reputations stay the same. The reputation of a child or adolescent in the peer group tends to be stable over time (whether a victim or a bully).
  • The rewards of bullying stay the same. Bullies do not work alone. The bully forms a coalition with other children in their peer group, which increases their status and helps the bully stay in charge. Because of such rewards, the bullying continues.
  • What peers expect of bullies and victims stays the same. Children expect their peers to behave in the same way they always do - for bullies to continue bullying and for victims to continue on the path of victimization. As a result of this, they unintentionally help them to continue their behavior.5
 
References:
  1. Dagmar Strohmeier. Bullying and its Underlying Mechanisms.
  2. Debra Pepler, Wendy M. Craig. Bullying, Interventions, and The Role of Adults.
  3. Noel A. Card. It Takes Two: Rethinking the Aggressor-Victim Relationship
  4. Mara Brendgen. Shoving, Gossip, and Beyond: How Environment Shapes Bullies
  5. Antonius Cillessen. Why is Bullying Difficult to Change?
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