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Family Interaction Patterns: Bullying and Victimization in Children

By — Pearson Allyn Bacon Prentice Hall
Updated on Jul 22, 2010

Three patterns or styles of parenting associated with the development of bullying have been identified: intrusive-overprotective parenting, parental psychological overcontrol, and parental coercion (Perry et al., 2001). Young people with healthy social and emotional adjustment, bullies, passive victims, provocative victims can all emerge from any of these styles. Other factors, such as individual temperament, results of first experiments with violence, and resilience also affect a child's role in bullying. However, the intrusive-overprotective style and the overcontrolled style are generally associated with victimization status, whereas coercion appears to foreshadow bullying behavior (Duncan, 2004; Olweus, 1993; Perry et al., 2001).

In conclusions drawn from a recent review, Duncan concluded that subtle gender interactions between parents and children affect the advent of victimization status. Male victims tend to have overprotective and controlling yet warm mothers. The fathers of male victims tended to be critical and either distant or absent. The mothers of female victims tended to be overtly hostile—at least in a verbal and psychological manner.

The Overprotective Parent or Caregiver

Hoover and Oliver (1996) referred to the "hothouse" family as an analogy to the intrusive-overprotective parenting style. A hothouse can be set up to tightly control all factors leading to health in plants. Yet when flowers from closely-controlled hothouses are transplanted into natural surroundings, they often wither because they cannot tolerate less-than-perfect conditions.

Likewise, young people, primarily boys (Duncan, 2004), frequently receive so much protection at home that they grow to be poor at tolerating other children's rough-and-tumble ways. Such youngsters become accustomed to adults' predictability and find the playground's confusion distressing. Overprotective parents may not afford their children the opportunity to enter into the roughhewn negotiations that facilitate acquisition of conflict-resolution skills. Children often learn the often indelicate art of conflict resolution through arguments about the rules of neighborhood games. These negotiation and related social skills learned informally among peers are often missing in children raised in an overprotective style. This may be particularly problematic if the youngster is born with a tendency toward social anxiety.

Boys recognize the importance of roughhousing during informal play. When Gamleiel, Hoover, Daughtry, and Imbra (2003) asked intermediate students about aggression, they replied that they participated in a lot of "horsing around" that did not constitute bullying. When these same individuals were asked about bullying, they noted that some boys did not like rough play and that horsing around with such individuals may have been perceived as bullying. This in turn places a great deal of pressure upon young boys who do not wish to play out what Kimmel and Mahler (2003) called masculine scripts.

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