What is Bullying?
Bullying is a special form of aggressive behavior. The world's leading authority on bullying, Dan Olweus, who designed the Norwegian intervention program, defines it this way: "A person is being bullied when he or she is exposed, repeatedly and over time, to negative actions on the part of one or more other persons" (Olweus, 1991, 1993). What differentiates bullying from other aggressive acts is that the student who bullies intends to harm, there is more than one incident, and an imbalance of power makes it hard for the child who's being bullied to defend herself. This difference in power can be physical—the child who bullies can be older, bigger, stronger; or several children can gang up on a single child. It can also be psychological, which is harder to see but just as potent—the student who bullies can have more social status or a sharper tongue, for instance. And for the child who is victimized, oppression is always the result, according to the English criminologist David Farrington (Rigby, 2001b).
- Physical bullying, which is the easiest to identify, includes a variety of behaviors such as hitting, kicking, shoving, and taking or destroying property. Physical bullying is more widespread among boys (Nansel et al., 2001) .
- Verbal bullying includes name-calling, insulting, intimidating, mocking, threatening, taunting, teasing, and making racist, sexist, or sexual comments. When does teasing cross the line and turn into bullying? Not everyone agrees, but some researchers (Froschl, Sprung, and Mullin-Rindler, 1998) see both teasing and bullying as points on a continuum of intentionally hurtful behavior, different only in degree. In a study of bullying in the Midwest, Ronald Oliver, John H. Hoover, and R. J. Hazler (1994) found that students are confused about teasing: They said it was done in fun, but they also ranked it as the most frequent bullying behavior. Verbal abuse is the most common form of bullying for both sexes (Kochenderfer and Ladd, 1996; Nansel et al., 2001) .
- Relational or psychological bullying uses relationships to control or harm another person (Crick, Casas, and Ku, 1999; Crick et al., 2001)—excluding her from the group or events, talking behind her back, spreading rumors, telling lies about her, giving her the silent treatment, and so on. According to Nicki Crick and her colleagues (Crick et al., 2001), relational bullying deprives children of the opportunity to be close to and accepted by their peers—needs that are important for their well-being and development. Girls are more likely to use, and to become the targets of, relational bullying (Crick et al., 1999; Crick and Grotpeter, 1995), but both boys and girls consider it the most hurtful type of bullying (Rigby, 2002).
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