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Gifted Children and Bullying: Victims and Perpetrators (page 2)

By — Bullying Special Edition Contributor
Updated on Mar 2, 2012

How You Can Help

You can make a positive impact and stop the bullying of—and by—gifted children. Here’s how:

  • Watchful eyes. Request that adult school personnel closely monitor areas or situations where bullying commonly takes place, such as classrooms, hallways, bus lines, restrooms, and cafeterias, especially for brief behaviors that often are “under the radar.”
  • Classroom social activities. Suggest classroom activities that help gifted youth and adolescents get to know both each other and their “average” peers, including students interviewing each other and non-competitive team-based activities.
  • Be a confidant. Respond and take any warning signs or child reports of bullying seriously. Several students in the research study had told a teacher, but were “called a tattletale” or reported that the adult “didn’t do anything.” Other researchers have found that adults don’t typically intervene in classroom conflict or playground disputes. As a result, few students tell parents and teachers about bullying, viewing them as indifferent or ineffective.
  • Inquisition. Ask your child about social aggression (“If I just watched for a day, what would I see?”), and be aware that your kid might be a victim, bully, bully-victim, or a traumatized bystander. Both bullies and victims warrant concern, since perpetrators have been associated with later delinquency and workplace bullying, and “bully-victims” are especially at risk for poor mental health down the road.
  • Take a stand. Support from parents and family are important for targets of bullying so it’s crucial you respond to bullying incidents. You can document acts of aggression, contact school administration, talk to other parents, and advocate for stronger and more effective school policies about bullying.

If you suspect your gifted child or teen is involved in bullying—as either victim or perpetrator—the time to act is now. Early intervention, combined with love and support, can lessen the damaging effects of bullying and help your child grow up happy, confident and secure.

This article is based on the following research reports:

  1. Peterson, J. S., & Ray, K. E. (2006a). Bullying among the gifted: The subjective experience. Gifted Child Quarterly, 50, 252-269.
  2. Peterson, J. S., & Ray, K. E. (2006b). Bullying and the gifted: Victims, perpetrators, prevalence, and effects. Gifted Child Quarterly, 50, 148-168.
  3. Athanasiades, C., & Deliyanni-Kouimtzis, V. (2010). The experience of bullying among secondary school students. Psychology in the Schools, 47, 328-341.
  4. Brendtro, L. K. (2001). Worse than sticks and stones: Lesson from research on ridicule. Reclaiming Children & Youth, 10(1), 47-49.
  5. Craig, W. M., Pepler, D. J., & Atlas, R. (2000). Observations of bullying in the playground and in the classroom. School Psychology International, 21, 22-36.
  6. Estell, D. B., Farmer, T. W., & Irvin, M. J. (2009). Students with Exceptionalities and the Peer Group Context of Bullying and Victimization in Late Elementary School. Journal of Child and Family Studies,18, 136-150.
  7. Juvonen, J., & Gross, E. F. (2008). Extending the school grounds? Bullying experiences in cyberspace. Journal of School Health, 78, 496-505.
  8. Kaltiala-Heino, R., Rimpela, M., Marttunen, M., Rimpela, A., & Rantanen, P. (1999). Bullying, depression, and suicidal ideation in Finnish adolescents: School survey. British Medical Journal, 319, 348–351.
  9. Olweus, D. (1993). Bullying at school: What we know and what we can do. Oxford, UK: Blackwell.

Author Jean Peterson, Ph.D., professor and counselor educator at Purdue University, has focused her clinical work and research on the social and emotional development of high-ability youth. Among her nearly 100 publications, including 8 books, are Gifted at Risk: Poetic Profiles, The Essential Guide to Talking with Gifted Teens, and Talk with Teens About What Matters to Them. Her first career was in K-12 education, as a classroom and gifted-education teacher.

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