Who Are the Students Who Bully Others?
By definition, children who use bullying behavior are strong individuals who choose to dominate their weak peers. They may have an impulsive temperament and a tendency to hotheadedness; and more importantly, they have a positive attitude toward violence. Boys who bully may be physically strong and good at sports and fighting (Olweus, 1993). In elementary school their marks are average, but they have trouble following rules and often behave aggressively and defiantly toward adults. In middle school they usually receive lower marks and dislike school (Olweus, 1993).
Children who target others probably acquire their view of violence at home, where they see up close how effective it can be. They may have observed parents or siblings bullying others or may have been bullied themselves (Sharp and Smith, 1994). Olweus (1993) found that the families of children who bully often use power-assertive child-rearing methods, such as physical punishment and violent emotional outbursts. They don't set clear limits or outlaw aggressive behavior, and they are usually cold and indifferent toward their child, which leads to an avoidant attachment relationship and increases the risk of aggressive behavior. A child in such a family grows up with a strong need to dominate others, to get her own way, and to be in control, and she isn't interested in negotiating, cooperating, or accepting anyone else's ideas (Hoover and Hazler, 1991; Olweus, 1993; Rigby, 1998). Pepler and Craig (n.d.) point out that she has learned some important lessons—that having power allows people to be aggressive, and that power and aggression can bring dominance and status.
Unlike children who use aggressive behavior indiscriminately, students who bully are generally well liked and surrounded by friends and supporters, although their popularity decreases in their mid teens (Olweus, 1993; Rigby, 1998). They may try out their tactics on several targets before settling on one who doesn't resist (Perry, Perry, and Kennedy, 1992). Because they choose carefully and use power swiftly and unemotionally to get what they want (Perry et al., 1992), their behavior elicits little negative reaction from their peers and seems to be an acceptable way to achieve social success (Hoover and Hazler, 1991).
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