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PSYCHOLOGY OF BULLYING

Bullies have troubled relationships with parents, friends

2 April, 2008

Children who bully other children are more than just bullies – they have trouble in relationships with their parents and friends as well.

In a recent study, scientists at York University in Toronto, Canada, and Queens University in Kingston, Canada, examined 871 students – 466 girls and 405 boys – for 7 years from ages 10 to 18. Each year, the children were asked questions about their involvement in bullying or victimizing behavior, their relationships, and other positive and negative behaviors.

The major findings of the study, titled Developmental Trajectories of Bullying and Associated Factors, are:

  • Nearly 10% of the children reported that they had bullied other kids at a consistently high rate throughout their elementary and high school years.
  • Over 13% bullied kids in elementary school but had stopped by the end of high school.
  • A little over 35% said they participated in moderate levels of bullying throughout school.
  • Over 40% said they had never bullied anyone throughout school.

The study, appearing in the March-April 2008 issue of the journal Child Development, also found that “children who bullied tended to be aggressive and lacking in a moral compass and they experienced a lot of conflict in their relationships with their parents.” Moreover, their relationships with friends involved a lot of conflict and they also tended to relate with others who bullied.

Debra Pepler, Distinguished Research Professor of Psychology at York University, senior associate researcher at Toronto’s Hospital for Sick Children and the study’s lead author, described bullying as “a relationship problem,” adding that “the findings provided clear direction for prevention of persistent bullying problems.”

Pepler wrote in the journal Child Development, “Interventions must focus on the children who bully, with attention to their aggressive behavior problems, social skills, and social problem-solving skills. A focus on the child alone is not sufficient. Bullying is a relationship problem that requires relationship solutions by focusing on the bullying children's strained relationships with parents and risky relationships with peers.”

“By providing intensive and ongoing support starting in the elementary school years to this small group of youth who persistently bully,” Pepler added, “it may be possible to promote healthy relationships and prevent their ‘career path’ of bullying that leads to numerous social-emotional and relationship problems in adolescence and adulthood.”

 

 
         
 

 

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