New information on what makes people likely to become bullies or victims of bullying may provide helpful insight into preventing these dynamics from arising in the first place. Researchers at Louisiana State University and the University of California at Riverside looked at 153 different bully-oriented studies that were conducted over the past thirty years. They drew conclusions as to the social factors contributing to both sides of the bullying dynamic, and were also able to develop some key elements that were most influential in someone becoming a bully. In many cases, both bullies and victims of bullying share the same contributing factors. Most notably, both bullies and bullying victims were found to have a noticeable lack of social problem-solving skills.
On the side of the bullies themselves, struggling academically is the greatest additional indicator that someone is likely to become a bully. Coming from a household that has frequent conflict and being raised by parents with poor parenting skills also made someone more likely to become a bully. Researchers found that bullies consistently have low thoughts about themselves and others; poor school performance may only enhance those feelings. If the bully feels ostracized or unvalued because of these reasons, the lack of social problem-solving skills drives them to seek control through bullying others.
For victims of bullying, several factors are the same. Victims also feel negative thoughts about themselves and others, exhibit signs of aggression, and have problems with social skills. This new information is especially insightful for the anti-bullying movement, which has gained national traction to help prevent bullying and its consequences (depression, social isolation, and in the worst cases, suicide). However, current anti-bullying strategies suggest removing the aggressor from the situation. This information indicates that further isolating a bully only makes the situation worse. Instead, that person needs a combination of discipline and support in order to stabilize the areas in his or her life that are fueling the harmful behavior.
© Copyright 2010 by By Noah Rubinstein, LMFT, LMHC, therapist in Olympia, Washington. All Rights Reserved. Permission to publish granted to GoodTherapy.org.
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