Paradise Junior High School Counselor

What Should Parents and Teachers Know About Bullying?

Bullying in schools is a worldwide problem that can have negative effects on the general school climate and on the right of students to learn in a safe environment without fear. Bullying can also have negative lifelong consequences-both for students who bully and for their victims. This brochure characterizes bullies and their victims, offers advice on how schools and parents can prevent bullying and intervene when it becomes a problem, and suggests sources for further information.

What Is Bullying?

Bullying typically consists of direct behaviors-such as teasing, taunting, threatening, hitting, and stealing-that are initiated by one or more students against a victim or victims. In addition to direct attacks, bullying may also be indirect-such as spreading rumors that cause victims to be socially isolated through intentional exclusion. Although boys who bully typically engage in direct bullying methods, girls who bully are more apt to use more subtle, indirect strategies. Whether the bullying is direct or indirect, the key component of bullying is physical or psychological intimidation that occurs repeatedly over time to create an ongoing pattern of harassment and abuse.

How Extensive Is Bullying?

Studies have established that approximately 15 percent of students are either bullied regularly or are initiators of bullying behavior (Olweus, 1993). Direct bullying seems to increase through the elementary school years, peak in the middle school/junior high school years, and decline during the high school years. Although direct physical assault seems to decrease with age, verbal abuse appears to remain constant. School size, racial composition, and school setting (rural, suburban, or urban) do not seem to be distinguishing factors in predicting the occurrence of bullying. Finally, boys are more likely than girls to engage in bullying behavior and to be the victims of bullies.

What Are Some Characteristics of Bullies?

Students who engage in bullying behaviors seem to have a need to feel powerful and in control. They appear to derive satisfaction from inflicting injury and suffering on others, seem to have little empathy for their victims, and often defend their actions by saying that their victims provoked them in some way. Studies indicate that bullies often come from homes in which physical punishment is used, children are taught to strike out physically as a way to handle problems, and parental involvement and warmth are frequently lacking. Students who regularly display bullying behaviors are generally defiant or oppositional toward adults, are antisocial, and are apt to break school rules. Bullies appear to have little anxiety and to possess strong self-esteem. There is little evidence to support the contention that bullies victimize others because they feel bad about themselves.

What Are Some Characteristics of Victims?

Students who are victims of bullying are typically anxious, insecure, and cautious and suffer from low self-esteem, rarely defending themselves or retaliating when confronted by students who bully them. They may lack social skills and friends and thus are often socially isolated. Victims tend to be close to their parents and may have parents who can be described as overprotective. The major physical characteristic of victims is that they tend to be weaker than their peers; other physical characteristics-such as weight, dress, or wearing eyeglasses-do not appear to be significant factors that can be correlated with victimization (Batsche and Knoff, 1994; Olweus, 1993).

What Are the Consequences of Bullying?

A strong correlation appears to exist between bullying other students during the school years and experiencing legal or criminal troubles as adults. Chronic bullies seem to continue their behaviors into adulthood, negatively influencing their ability to develop and maintain positive relationships.

Victims of bullies often fear school and consider it to be an unsafe and unhappy place. As many as seven percent of America's eighth-graders stay home at least once a month because of bullies. The act of being bullied tends to increase some students' isolation because their peers do not want to lose social status by associating with them or because their peers do not want to increase the risks of being bullied themselves. Being bullied often leads to depression and low self-esteem-problems that can continue into adulthood (Olweus, 1993; Batsche and Knoff, 1994).

What Are Some Perceptions of Bullying?

Parents are often unaware of the bullying problem and discuss it with their children only to a limited extent. Students typically feel that adult intervention is infrequent and ineffective and that telling adults will only bring more harassment from bullies. Students report that teachers seldom or never talk to their classes about bullying (Charach, Pepler, and Ziegler, 1995). School personnel may view bullying as a harmless rite of passage that is best ignored unless verbal and psychological intimidation crosses the line into physical assault or theft.

Source: ERIC