Although there have been some variations in the way bullying has been defined, a general consensus has emerged which is seen as a form of aggressive behavior in which there is an imbalance of power favoring the perpetrators who repeatedly seek to hurt or intimidate a targeted individual. (Rigby & Smith, 2011) Several theories are generalized regarding what puts certain individuals more at-risk for bullying than others. A few of these theories include lack of social supports, being a part of a particular culture, having a disability, lack of parental/familial involvement, and so forth. (Rigby & Smith, 2011)
Along with more direct physical and emotional bullying, growing awareness of cyber bullying has led commentators to claim that bullying has increased a great deal; especially in this area as technology has become more relevant and more accessible. (Rigby & Smith, 2011)
It is understandable that school bullying has increasingly become a central topic in intervention and research as well as a major topic of public concern drawing media attention, with articles in major newspapers and magazines reporting cases of children who have either committed or attempted suicide due to being victimized at school. Bullying continues to be a serious problem in both developed and developing countries; touching both genders and all different races/ethnicities. Bullying can occur anywhere; some of the most common reported places being schools, the workplace, and even within one’s own family. (Ttofi & Farrington, 2010)
With the increase of public awareness of the prevalence and the harmfulness of bullying behavior, there has also been a rise in the alarm that public feels towards it. Additionally, increased awareness and reporting of mental health problems that may stem from bullying, such as anxiety, depression, and suicidiality may lead to the conclusion that bullying is becoming more prevalent.
Bullying continues to be a serious problem in schools, in some more than others. Anti-bullying interventions have markedly varying success rates. (Rigby &Smith, 2011) It affects psychological well-being and psychosocial functioning for the victims. Conversely, perpetrators of bullying are at an increased risk of poor school adjustment, worse academic achievement, increased alcohol use and smoking, and higher criminality rates as adults. (Shetgiri, Lin & Flores, 2012) In 2009, ABC News reported that at least 30% of American students are bullies or being bullied, causing 160,000 students to be absent from school each day. (Murray, Hewitt, Maniss & Molinatti, 2004) The internet, YouTube, and cell phone messaging are exacerbating the problem by further expanding the audience. According to a study done involving the reaction of school staff to the victimization, about 66% of the students who reported that bullying stated that after they did so, the school staff responded poorly. (Murray, Hewitt, Maniss & Molinatti, 2004) In addition, when there is a stigma of acceptance of bullying by the school staff due to non-intervention, bullying episodes increase which creates a toxic environment. A study funded by the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, conducted in 2001 took a national sample of 15,600 students from grades six through ten. This study showed that 19% of the participants bullied others often while 9% bullied others weekly. Additionally, 19% were bullied sometimes and 8% indicated they were bullied weekly. This study also indicated that special needs children are at a higher risk of being bullied. (Murray, Hewitt, Maniss & Molinatti, 2004)
With the various methods of bullying that exist today, it has become increasingly harder to control and to protect the victims. (“The psychology of,” 2013) Bullying has been known to cause lifelong psychological effects that may require therapy in order to overcome. In more serious cases, the victim of bullying may choose to take their own life to escape the pain they are enduring or have endured. The mental health problems caused by bullying include high levels of depression, anxiety, and general social isolation. (“The psychology of,” 2013) There has even been evidence mounting of increased self-harm behaviors, suicidal ideation, and prior suicide attempts among bully victims. According to a 2011 study conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), among middle school students, victims of bullying were 6.6 times more likely to report seriously considering suicide compared to youth who were not bully victims and/or who did not bully. (Underwood, Rish-Scott & Springer, 2011)
There is growing evidence that bullying has a persistent and pervasive effect on the learning environment of a school according to the U.S. Department of Education. As many as 8 states thus far, have considered or adopted legislation requiring schools to implement bullying prevention policies or programs. The passage of the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001, ensures that school safety remain a top priority of school administrators indefinitely. Several decades of prevention research has been done in order to find out what is effective in school-based programs involving a comprehensive, multidimensional strategy that targets not only bullies, but victims, bystanders, families, and communities. (Whitted & Dupper, 2005)
From the perspective of Conflict Theory, it is essentially about inequality, imbalance of power, and instances of oppression; all of which relates to bullying. Conflict Theory can also be applied on a large or small scale to study group-based patterns of inequality/imbalance of power as well as on the small individual scale and how it affects human behavior. (Hutchinson, 2011) Additionally, Conflict Theory raises issues of status in considering human diversity, all relating back to the social justice mission. Freud’s Psychodynamic Theory and ego psychology are primarily focused on internal psychological processes with strong attention being paid to emotions and cognitions, which can be applied to many theories of bullying including defense mechanisms, anxiety, and other possible internal conflicts causing the individual to act with heightened levels of aggression. (Hutchinson, 2011) Emphasis could also be placed on Relational-cultural theory as it focuses on human relationships and interactions within a community setting, which would be affected by bullying.
Many analyses and reviews have suggested that certain programs have been effective in reducing the prevalence of bullying. On average, it was concluded that anti-bullying programs reduce bullying by approximately 20%. However, it has remained uncertain what changes have been occurring related to the overall prevalence of bullying in schools has increased over the years. It is clear that what is needed is an examination of research findings from which possible changes in bullying prevalence over time can be inferred. (Rigby &Smith, 2011)
Highly publicized bullying related suicides focused international attention on bullying. Bullying is defined as aggression which is intended to harm, occurs repeatedly, and consists of an imbalance of power, in which a more powerful person or group attacks a less powerful victim. Bullying affects adolescent psychological well-being and psychosocial functioning. Perpetrators of bullying are at increased risk of poor school adjustment, worse academic achievement, increased alcohol use and smoking, and higher criminality as adults. (Shetgiri, Lin & Flores, 2012)
The presence of emotional, developmental, or behavioral problems are heavily associated with bullying. Parental involvement, communication, and relationships with children are associated with bullying.
Neighborhood safety within the community was assessed. Bullying continues to be a significant problem among adolescents. Almost 1 in 6 adolescents were bullied at various times in 2007 versus 1 in 5 in 2003. Study findings documented that EBD problems in children occur more often among bully victims as well as subpar mental health, and parental anger with the child. (Pontzer, 2009) Conversely, decreased odds of bullying occur with more parental communication and involvement. It would be useful to further examine these relationships using bullying self-reports by children and adolescents. There have been many studies conducted researching who is most at risk to become a bully. Findings have been mostly inconsistent up to this point but the most common contributors were found to be parental anger, domestic violence, lack of confidence, feelings of shame and displacement, poor role modeling, poor attachment and child maltreatment, and poor peer relations. (Pontzer, 2009)
A decrease in instances of bullying was demonstrated to be associated with positive adult role modeling, parents meeting most or all of their child’s friends, positive home environment, and increased/positive social supports. (Pontzer, 2009) It has also been widely discussed that children’s bullying behavior is heavily influenced by their intense desire to be accepted by their peers; primarily other children who bully. This motivates them to behave in specific ways in order to elicit the bullies’ acceptance. This occurs in bother genders; often leading to future anti-social behavior. (Olthof & Goossens, 2007)
Warm family relationships and positive home environments help to buffer children from the negative outcomes associated with bullying victimization. Warm parent-child relationships can exert an environmentally mediated effect on children’s behavioral adjustment following bully victimization. Identifying protective factors that promote resilience to bullying victimization could lead to improved intervention strategies targeting the home environment. (Bowes, Maughan, Caspi, Moffitt & Arseneault, 2010) Sharing ideas and talking with the child may decrease this. Studies on mesosystem influences of child bullying have focused more on the relationship between parental and school involvement: parental involvement at the child’s school may influence prevalence of child bullying. Based on these finding, more studies on the effects of parent-peer influence should be done. (Shetgiri, Lin & Flores, 2012)
Professional organizations for clinicians have recognized the need for clinicians to intervene in bullying through clinical practice and advocacy. Recommendations include identifying children who are at risk for bullying, providing counseling for families, screening for co-morbidities, and advocating for bullying prevention at the local, state, and national level. (Shetgiri, Lin & Flores, 2012) Most recommendations however, focus primarily on identification and interventions for victims. Recommendations for bullies consist of screening children identified as bullies for conduct disorder or other psychiatric co-morbidities, and referral for psychiatric evaluation and therapy. Clinicians should also promote positive parent-child interactions and consider the benefits of PCIT and other training programs as possible resources for parents of bullies. (Shetgiri, Lin & Flores, 2012)
Since bullying is one of the most pervasive forms of violence in U.S. schools, if school social workers are truly interested in reducing school violence, it would behoove them to begin with this issue. As more federal and state funds are directed toward prevention programs rooted in scientific research, schools may turn increasingly to professionals who have the training and expertise to assume leadership roles in bullying prevention efforts. School social workers should be assuming several roles, including program developer, promoter, and on-sit coordinator of bullying prevention programs. They may also secure funding for such programs through community collaboration and grant-writing. Careful planning and evaluation can help students bring about systemic change contributing to our knowledge of what is effective in bullying prevention research. (Whitted & Dupper, 2005)
Drawing upon empirical studies undertaken in a wide range of countries, it is widely believed that bullying in schools has increased drastically between 1990 and 2009. (Smith & Rigby, 2011) By the beginning of the 21st century, reports from a wide range of studies in many countries that reflected a growing concern about school bullying. With that being said, there are a wide range of initiatives being undertaken to address the problem. (Smith & Rigby, 2011) Current anti-bullying interventions focus on the child, peer relationships, and the school environment, with little emphasis on parental influence and changing parental behavior. These interventions are predominately school-based and demonstrate variable results. A recent met-analysis of school-based bullying prevention interventions suggest that parent training and education is an essential component for effective interventions, but often difficult to implement. The study findings suggest that parental factors could be incorporated into interventions by assessing parental anger and feelings that their child bothers them quite a bit and teaching parents how to manage these negative emotions without aggression, as well as encouraging parents to talk with their child and to meet their child’s friends. (Shetgiri, Lin & Flores, 2012)
A literature review of anti-bullying programs in middle and high schools indicates that there are a variety of commercially available programs along with numerous school-based programs. The courts are very clear that all facets of the school community must police and report any bullying behavior that is observed. (Padgett & Notar, 2012) Policies and programs to reduce bullying in schools are anchored in a common misunderstanding of the notion of bullying. Such policies and programs are utilitarian but misguided. It is no longer appropriate for administrators, teachers, students, parents and the community to call bullying “horse play.” Since bullying is one of the most pervasive forms of violence in U.S. schools, if school social workers are truly interested in reducing school violence, it would benefit them to begin with this issue. As more federal and state funds are directed toward prevention programs rooted in scientific research such as Zero Tolerance and Stop Bullying Now, schools may turn increasingly to professionals who have the training and expertise to assume leadership roles in bullying prevention efforts. School social workers should be assuming several roles, including program developer, promoter, and on-site coordinator of bullying prevention programs. They may also secure funding for such programs through community collaboration and grant-writing. Careful planning and evaluation can help students bring about systemic change contributing to our knowledge of what is effective in bullying prevention research. (Whitted & Dupper, 2005)
Anti-Bullying Statutes today mainly focus on preventing bullying, training and educating, as well as punishment when bullying occurs. Common components of these laws require or encourage school officials to develop a policy to prohibit bullying, implement a bullying prevention program, train employees on bullying and bullying prevention, report school bullying to authorities, and develop disciplinary actions for children who bully. Restorative Justice provides an alternative approach for school districts to battle bullying; focusing on repairing the harm and reintegrating the offender back into the community. (Duncan, 2010) This approach concerns many people and rightfully so. Community collaboration needs to occur in order to develop best practices that reflect the unique environment of each school. There is currently advocacy in the state legislatures to include restorative justice in anti-bullying statutes. (Duncan, 2010)
In developing new policies and practices to reduce bullying, policy-makers and practitioners should draw upon high-quality evidenced-based programs that have been proven to be effective. New anti-bullying initiatives should be inspired by existing successful programs, yet modified in the light of key program elements found to be most effective. (Ttofi & Farrington, 2012) School policy aimed at bullying reduction should go beyond external control involving external rewards and sanctions; while assisting teachers with acquiring autonomy-supportive practices focusing on students’ internalization as well. (Roth, Maymon-Kanat & Bibi, 2010) According to the CQ Researcher, the key to the success of any program is a change in the behavior of school bullies as well as the culture within the school. Experts agree that no matter what program is utilized, its effectiveness depends on school administrators’ level of commitment. Success is not dependent upon correct content of the programs, but more so how thoroughly the program is supported and implemented. (Padgett & Notar, 2012) Further research should be conducted on bullying, possibly interviewing known bullies, the dynamics of group bullying, bullying in the workplace, as well as bullying of specific populations including various minorities and the elderly. (Pontzer, 2007)
Bullying continues to be a serious problem in schools, the workplace, the cyber world, and so forth; some more than others. Anti-bullying interventions have markedly varying success rates. It remains an urgent task to find out more about the best ways to intervene, how to tackle new forms of bullying and cyber bullying, and to maximize the efficacy of prevention and intervention efforts. (Rigby & Smith, 2011)
Interesting Links I found: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rjjeHeAzZZM http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=p579_qhnO0s
Brynn, S. (2011). Stop bullying now! a federal campaign for bullying prevention and intervention. Journal of School Violence, (10), 213-219. doi: 10.1080/15388220.2011.557313
Duncan, S. H. (2010). Restorative juctice and bullying: A missing solution in the anti-bullying laws. New England Journal of Criminal and Civil Confinement, 37(267), 267-297.
Hutchinson, E. D. (2011). Dimensions of human behavior. (4th ed., p. Edition). Los Angeles, CA: Sage Publications, Inc.
Murray, S. S., Hewitt, P., Maniss, S., & Molinatti, J. (2004). “the’yre just being kids”: Recognizing and preventing bullying. The National Social Science Journal,
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