Bullying

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

    Bullying is a form of abuse. It involves repeated acts over time attempting to create or enforce one person's (or group's) power over another person (or group) , thus an "imbalance of power". The "imbalance of power" may be social power and/or physical power. The victim of bullying is sometimes referred to as a target. Bullying types of behavior are often rooted in a would-be bully's inability to empathize with those whom he or she would target.

    Bullying consists of three basic types of abuse – emotional, verbal and physical. It typically involves subtle methods of coercion such as psychological manipulation. Bullying can be defined in many different ways. Although the UK currently has no legal definition of bullying, some US states have laws against it.

    Bullying ranges from simple one on one bullying to more complex bullying in which the bully may have one or more 'lieutenants' who may seem to be willing to assist the primary bully in his bullying activities. Bullying in school and the workplace is also referred to as peer abuse. Robert W. Fuller has analyzed bullying in the context of rankism.

    Bullying can occur in any context in which human beings interact with each other. This includes school, church, family, the workplace, home and neighborhoods. It is even a common push factor in migration. Bullying can exist between social groups, social classes and even between countries (see Jingoism). In fact on an international scale, perceived or real imbalances of power between nations, in both economic systems and in treaty systems, are often cited as some of the primary causes of both World War I and World War II. Put simply, historically and from this perspective, certain international 'bullying' between nations is seen as having resulted in at least two very major and costly international wars. (Back)

Definition

    Bullying is an act of repeated aggressive behavior in order to intentionally hurt another person, physically or mentally. Bullying is characterized by an individual behaving in a certain way to gain power over another person.

Norwegian researcher Dan Olweus defines bullying as when a person is

"exposed, repeatedly and over time, to negative actions on the part of one or more other persons." He defines negative action as "when a person intentionally inflicts injury or discomfort upon another person, through physical contact, through words or in other ways". (Back)

General

    Bullying behavior may include name calling, verbal or written abuse, exclusion from activities, exclusion from social situations, physical abuse, or coercion. Bullies may behave this way to be perceived as popular or tough or to get attention. They may bully out of jealousy or be acting out because they themselves are bullied.

    USA National Center for Education Statistics suggests that bullying can be classified into two categories: Direct bullying, and indirect bullying which is also known as social aggression.

    Ross states that direct bullying involves a great deal of physical aggression such as shoving and poking, throwing things, slapping, choking, punching and kicking, beating, stabbing, pulling hair, scratching, biting, scraping and pinching.

    He also suggests that social aggression or indirect bullying is characterized by threatening the victim into social isolation. This isolation is achieved through a wide variety of techniques, including spreading gossip, refusing to socialize with the victim, bullying other people who wish to socialize with the victim, and criticizing the victim's manner of dress and other socially-significant markers (including the victim's race, religion, disability, etc). Ross outlines other forms of indirect bullying which are more subtle and more likely to be verbal, such as name calling, the silent treatment, arguing others into submission, manipulation, gossip/false gossip, lies, rumors/false rumors, staring, giggling, laughing at the victim, saying certain words that trigger a reaction from a past event, and mocking. The children's charity Act Against Bullying was set up in 2003 to help children who were victims of this type of bullying by researching and publishing coping skills. (Back)

Effects of bullying on those who are targeted

    The effects of bullying can be serious and even fatal. Mona O’Moore of the Anti-Bullying Centre at Trinity College in Dublin, has written, "There is a growing body of research which indicates that individuals, whether child or adult, who are persistently subjected to abusive behavior are at risk of stress related illness which can sometimes lead to suicide." Those who have been the targets of bullying can suffer from long term emotional and behavioral problems. Bullying can cause loneliness, depression, anxiety, lead to low self-esteem and increased susceptibility to illness.

The National Conference of State Legislatures said:

"In 2002, a report released by the U.S. Secret Service concluded that bullying played a significant role in many school shootings and that efforts should be made to eliminate bullying behavior." (Back)

Suicide

    There is a strong link between bullying and suicide. Bullying leads to several suicides every year. It is estimated that between 15 and 25 children commit suicide every year in the UK alone, because they are being bullied. (Back)

Characteristics of bullies and bully accomplices

    Research indicates that adults who bully have personalities that are authoritarian, combined with a strong need to control or dominate. It has also been suggested that a prejudicial view of subordinates can be particular a risk factor.

    Further studies have shown that envy and resentment may be motives for bullying. Research on the self-esteem of bullies has produced equivocal results. While some bullies are arrogant and narcissistic, others can use bullying as a tool to conceal shame or anxiety or to boost self esteem: by demeaning others, the abuser him/herself feels empowered.

    Researchers have identified other risk factors such as depression and personality disorders, as well as quickness to anger and use of force, addiction to aggressive behaviors, mistaking others' actions as hostile, concern with preserving self image, and engaging in obsessive or rigid actions. A combination of these factors may also be cause of this behavior.

    It is often suggested that bullying behavior has its origin in childhood. As a person who is inclined to act as a bully matures, his or her related behavior patterns will often also mature. Schoolyard pranks and 'rough-housing' may mature into more subtle, yet equally effective adult level activities such as administrative end-runs, well planned and orchestrated attempts at character assassination, or other less obvious, yet equally forceful forms of coercion.

"If aggressive behavior is not challenged in childhood, there is a danger that it may become habitual. Indeed, there is research evidence, to indicate that bullying during childhood puts children at risk of criminal behavior and domestic violence in adulthood." 

    Bullies may bully because they themselves have been the victim of bullying. There is also evidence that bullies have a much higher likelihood to be incarcerated in the future. (Back)

Characteristics of typical bystanders

    Often bullying takes place in the presence of a large group of relatively uninvolved bystanders. In many cases, it is the bully's ability to create the illusion that he or she has the support of the majority present, that instills the fear of 'speaking out' in protestation of the bullying activities being observed by the group. Unless the 'bully mentality' is effectively challenged in any given group in its earlier stages, often the 'bully mentality' becomes an accepted norm within the group. In such groups where the 'bully mentality' has been allowed to become a dominant factor in the group environment, a steady stream of injustices and abuses often becomes a regular and predictable group experience. Such a toxic environment often remains as the status-quo of the group for an extended period of time, until somehow the bullying-cycle should eventually come to an end. Bystanders to bullying activities are often unable to recognize the true cost that silence regarding the bullying activities has to both the individual and to the group. A certain inability to fully empathize is also usually present in the typical bystander, but to a lesser degree than in the bully. The reversal of a 'bully mentality' within a group is usually an effort which requires much time, energy, careful planning, coordination with others, and usually the undertaking of a certain 'risk'.

    It is the general unwillingness of bystanders to expend these types of energies and to undertake these types of risks that bullies often rely upon in order to maintain their monopolies of power. Until or unless at least one individual who has at least some abilities to work with others, opts to expend whatever energies may be needed to reverse the 'bully mentality' of the group, the 'bully mentality' is often perpetuated within a group for months, years or even decades. (Back)

Characteristics of likely targets of chronic bullying

    While on the surface, chronic bullying may appear to be simply the actions of an 'aggressor' (or aggressors) perpetrated upon an unwilling 'targeted individual' (or individuals), on a certain deeper level, for it to succeed, the bullying-cycle must also be viewed as necessarily including a certain chronic inadequate response on the part of the target (or targets). That is, a response that is seen by both the bully and the target as insufficient to prevent the chronic bullying-cycle from repeating itself between the given individuals. Those individuals or groups who are capable of reacting to initial bullying attempts in ways that tend to sufficiently discourage potential bullies from repeated attempts, are naturally relatively exempt from this destructive cycle. Those individuals or groups who most readily react to stressful situations by perceiving themselves as 'victims' tend to make the most suitable candidates for becoming the 'targets' of chronic bullying.

    Typically the bullying-cycle must include both an act of aggression on the part of a potential bully, and a response by a potential target that is perceived by both as a certain sign of submission. The cycle is only set in motion when both of these two essential elements are present. Once both of these two elements manifest themselves, the bullying cycle often proceeds to feed on itself over time, and may last for months, years, or even decades. The cycle is most easily broken at its initial onset, however it can also be broken at any later point in its progression by simply removing either one of its two essential ingredients. While group involvement may seem to complicate bullying activities, the act remains an implied agreement in principal between the chief bully and the target that the one has 'submitted' to the other. In the act of bullying the bully attempts to make a public statement to the effect of: 'See me and fear me, I am so powerful that I have the ability to inflict pain upon the intended target at the time and manner of my choice without having to pay any consequences.' Should an intended target exhibit a 'defeated attitude' in response to chronic bullying, then the bullying is likely to continue. Should the intended target respond with a clear attitude of self-confidence that somehow demonstrates that the bully's attempt to dominate is futile, then the bullying attempt will almost certainly quickly diminish or end all-together. (Back)

History of bullying

    High-level forms of violence such as assault and murder usually receive most media attention, but lower-level forms of violence such as bullying has only in recent years started to be addressed by researchers, parents and guardians and authority figures.

    It is only in recent years that bullying has been recognized and recorded as a separate and distinct offence, but there have been well documented cases that were recorded in a different context. The Fifth Volume of the Newgate Calendar contains at least one example where Eton Scholars George Alexander Wood and Alexander Wellesley Leith were charged, at Aylesbury Assizes, with killing and slaying the Hon. F. Ashley Cooper on February 28, 1825 in an incident that would now, surely be described as "lethal hazing." The Newgate calendar contains several other examples that, while not as distinct, could be considered indicative of situations of bullying. (Back)

Types of bullying

School bullying - In schools, bullying occurs in all areas of school. It can occur in nearly any part in or around the school building, though it more often occurs in PE, recess, hallways, bathrooms, on school buses and waiting for buses, classes that require group work and/or after school activities. Bullying in school sometimes consists of a group of students taking advantage of or isolating one student in particular and gaining the loyalty of bystanders who want to avoid becoming the next victim. These bullies taunt and tease their target before physically bullying the target. Targets of bullying in school are often pupils who are considered strange or different by their peers to begin with, making the situation harder for them to deal with.

    One student or a group can bully another student or a group of students. Bystanders may participate or watch, sometimes out of fear of becoming the next victim. However, there is some research suggesting that a significant proportion of "normal" school children may not evaluate school-based violence (student-on-student victimization) as negatively or as being unacceptable as much as adults generally do, and may even derive enjoyment from it, and they may thus not see a reason to prevent it if it brings them joy on some level.

    Bullying can also be perpetrated by teachers and the school system itself: There is an inherent power differential in the system that can easily predispose to subtle or covert abuse (relational aggression or passive aggression), humiliation, or exclusion — even while maintaining overt commitments to anti-bullying policies.

    Anti-bullying programs are designed to teach students cooperation, as well as training peer moderators in intervention and dispute resolution techniques, as a form of peer support.

    American victims and their families have legal recourse, such as suing a school or teacher for failure to adequately supervise, racial or gender discrimination, or other civil rights violations. Special education students who are victimized may sue a school or school board under the ADA or Section 504. In addition, the victims of some school shootings have sued both the shooters' families and the schools. (Back)

Hazing - Hazing is an often ritualistic test which may constitute harassment, abuse, or humiliation with requirements to perform meaningless tasks; sometimes as a way of initiation into a social group. The term can refer to either physical (sometimes violent) or mental (possibly degrading) practices. It is a subjective matter where to draw to line between 'normal' hazing (somewhat abusive) and a mere rite of passage (essentially bonding; proponents may argue they can coincide), and there is a gray area where exactly the other side passes over into sheer degrading, even harmful abuse that should not even be tolerated if accepted voluntarily (serious but avoidable accidents do still happen; even deliberate abuse with similar grave medical consequences occurs, in some traditions even rather often). Furthermore, as it must be a ritual initiation, a different social context may mean a same treatment is technically hazing for some, not for others, e.g. a line-crossing ceremony when passing the equator at sea is hazing for the sailor while the extended (generally voluntary, more playful) application to passengers is not.

Hazing has been reported in a variety of social contexts, including:

  • Sports teams
  • Academic fraternities and sororities (see fraternities and sororities) These practices are not limited to American schools. Swedish students undergo a similar bonding period, known as nollningen, in which all members of the entering class participate.
  • College and universities in general.
  • Associated groups, like fan clubs, school bands
  • Secret societies and even certain service clubs, or rather their local sections (such as some modern US Freemasons; not traditional masonic lodges)
  • Similarly various other competitive sports teams or clubs, even 'soft' and non-competitive ones (such as arts)
  • The armed forces — e.g., in the U.S., hard hazing practices from World War I boot camps were introduced into colleges. In Poland army hazing is called Polish fala "wave" adopted pre-World War I from non-Polish armies. In the Russian army (formerly the Red Army) hazing is called "Dedovshchina".
  • Police forces (often with a paramilitary tradition)
  • Rescue services, such as lifeguards (also drilled for operations in military style)
  • In workplaces
  • Inmate hazing is also common at confinement facilities around the world, including frequent reports of beatings and sexual assaults by fellow inmates.

Hazing is considered a felony in several US states, and anti-hazing legislation has been proposed in other states. (Back)

Workplace bullying - According to the Workplace Bullying and Trauma Institute workplace bullying is "repeated, health-harming mistreatment, verbal abuse, or conduct which is threatening, humiliating, intimidating, or sabotage that interferes with work or some combination of the three."
    Statistics show that bullying is 3 times as prevalent as illegal discrimination and at least 1,600 times as prevalent as workplace violence. Statistics also show that while only one employee in every 10,000 becomes a victim of workplace violence, one in six experiences bullying at work. Bullying is a little more common than sexual harassment but not verbal abuse which occurs more than bullying.       Unlike the more physical form of school bullying, workplace bullying often takes place within the established rules and policies of the organization and society. Such actions are not necessarily illegal and may not even be against the firm's regulations; however, the damage to the targeted employee and to workplace morale is obvious.

    Particularly when perpetrated by a group, workplace bullying is sometimes known as mobbing. It can also be known as "career assassination" in political circles. (Back)

Cyberbullying - According to Canadian educator Bill Belsey, it:

...involves the use of information and communication technologies such as e-mail, cell phone and pager text messages, instant messaging, defamatory personal Web sites, blogs, online games and defamatory online personal polling Web sites, to support deliberate, repeated, and hostile behavior by an individual or group, that is intended to harm others.
—Cyberbullying: An Emerging Threat to the Always On Generation

Bullies will even create blogs to intimidate victims worldwide. (Back)

Political bullying and terrorism - Jingoism is defined as, 'The extreme belief that your own country is always best, which is often shown in enthusiastic support for a war against another country. This form of ultra-nationalistic rhetoric is sometimes a precursor to warfare. It is often a part of a campaign by one country to impose its will upon another country by various means of extraordinary coercion, with threats of force, or ultimately by force itself if all other means may be seen as unsuccessful. Some examples of diplomatic coercions might be to threaten to with-hold aid and grants to a smaller country or to threaten with exclusion from a trading organization, or other similar economic threats.

    The forceful methods used by various totalitarian regimes to secure and maintain their power have sometimes been described as merely highly organized and widespread forms of bullying. International terrorism has been described by some as a form of political bullying, and by others as a response to the international bullying attempts of existing nation-states. (Back)

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