Worth the long read. -- Dallas

 

The Origins of Bullying


Late on a Saturday night in September, a 14-year old boy named Jamey Rodemeyer, who had been the target of bullying from fellow students at Williamsville North High School in Buffalo New York, took his life. Just hours before he killed himself, Jamey left the last of his numerous messages online talking about the pain he had been dealing with for a long time. Jamey’s suicide was a terrible, extreme reaction to being bullied, and tragically, his was not an unusual case. According to some reports there were as many as 10 teen suicides in the month of September this year, in the United States, that were linked to bullying. Violent reactions by teens to being bullied are not new. It was boys that were bullied and ostracized that committed the high school shootings that plagued the US in the 1990’s. From those mass slaughters to the present day rash of suicides, bullying is taking a violent toll on the youth of America.


The response to this crisis in the United States has been efforts at the local, regional and Federal (stopbullying.gov) levels to combat bullying and its impacts. Working groups, task forces and new policies have all been established, with the hopes of halting the spread of the social scourge that is bullying. While it is clear that bullying has become a critical issue both within US schools and the social systems navigated by America’s youth, what is less clear is where its origins lie. It’s easy to get consumed with the impacts and immediate causes of bullying in the US, and to ignore where bullying stems from. However, understanding the origins of bullying is critical. Without the deep understanding the origins of a behavior provide, efforts to prevent bullying will continue to fail.


To understand where bullying comes from, we have to look at the phenomenon on multiple levels. The first step is to define bullying. Bullying is a behavior that is often difficult to measure, but is something that we all think we know when we see it. Many of us have experienced bullying first-hand, and most of us have witnessed it at some point. However, to study any trait or characteristic, we must first define what it is, and bullying is no exception. According to psychological sources, bullying is a specific type of aggression in which (1) the behavior is intended to harm or disturb, (2) the behavior occurs repeatedly over time, and (3) there is an imbalance of power, with a more powerful person or group attacking a less powerful one. This asymmetry of power may be physical or psychological, and the aggressive behavior may be verbal (eg, name-calling, threats), physical (eg, hitting), or psychological (eg, rumors, shunning/exclusion). The key elements of this definition are that multiple means can be employed by the bully or bullies, intimidation is the goal, and bullying can happen on a one-on-one or group basis (Nansel et al, 2001).


Now that we’ve established a definition for bullying, there are two distinct levels of analysis that will shed light on the behavior and its origins. The first level of analysis is to determine if bullying is a cultural phenomenon. In other words, is bullying unique to US society, or is it widespread across different cultures, from different parts of the world? If bullying is widespread and found throughout different societies, we have to consider that it has a deeper origin than present cultural conditions. In short, we can deepen our analysis of the behavior. Bullying is, in fact, widespread and not restricted to American society, but instead is found across the globe (Smith et al, 2002). From hunter/gatherer groups (Boehm, 2000) to post-industrial Japan, bullying is ubiquitous across human cultures. [continue]

Tags: behavior, bullies, bullying, evolution, science

Views: 43

Replies to This Discussion

Thank you Dallas for the article. I agree that intimidation is the goal of a bully. Why do they feel the need to hurt others? That can be a tough question to answer.

"However, to study any trait or characteristic, we must first define what it is, and bullying is no exception. According to psychological sources, bullying is a specific type of aggression in which (1) the behavior is intended to harm or disturb, (2) the behavior occurs repeatedly over time, and (3) there is an imbalance of power, with a more powerful person or group attacking a less powerful one. This asymmetry of power may be physical or psychological, and the aggressive behavior may be verbal (eg, name-calling, threats), physical (eg, hitting), or psychological (eg, rumors, shunning/exclusion). The key elements of this definition are that multiple means can be employed by the bully or bullies, intimidation is the goal, and bullying can happen on a one-on-one or group basis (Nansel et al, 2001)."

I found this interesting in the article:

"Text and online bullying are extensions of this behavior and further remove the bullies themselves from immediate risk. It is not anonymity that texting and online interactions provide, but rather the opportunity for individuals to distance themselves from potential conflict and risk that provides them with a platform to be cruel."

"The tendency to bully, or coerce, others is natural and deeply rooted in our evolutionary history, and emerges in any group of toddlers playing freely. However, when cultures condone and in some cases celebrate violence and aggression, while suppressing or demonizing aspects of humanity that are equally natural such as homosexuality, they unwittingly give license to and encourage bullies."

I agree! Yes!

It was a well-balanced article, I thought.

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