Bullying and intimidation are a major social problem in many cultures. Since it is widely considered immature and mean to perpetrate violent or threatening acts, it is not surprising that incidents of bullying are usually found among young people where they gather to socialize. Schools are a hotbed of bullying activity, and many children are victimized. Bullying has two key components: repeated harmful acts and an imbalance of power.
It involves repeated physical, verbal, or psychological attacks or intimidation directed against a victim who cannot properly defend him or herself because of size or strength, or because the victim is outnumbered or less psychologically resilient. Bullying includes assault, tripping, intimidation, rumor-spreading and isolation, demands for money, destruction of property, theft of valued possessions, destruction of another’s work, and name-calling. There are different categories of school bullying, and some of the categories overlap. Here are some of the most important categories that are frequently discussed:
1) How Many Bullies
• Pack bullying is bullying undertaken by a group. Pack bullying was more prominent in high schools and characteristically lasted longer that bullying undertaken by individuals. Pack bullying may be physical bullying or emotional bullying and be perpetrated in person or in cyberspace. • Individual bullying is one-on-one bullying that may take place either in person or online, as well as being physical bullying or emotional bullying.
2) Mode of School Bullying
• Physical bullying is bullying that takes the form of physical abuse, such as pushing, shoving, hitting, fighting, spitting, and tripping. • Emotional bullying is bullying that involves factors other than physical interaction, such as insults, derogatory remarks, name calling, and teasing.
3) Medium of School Bullying
• Face-to-face bullying is bullying in which students confront each other in person. • Cyber bullying is bullying that takes place online, through either email, chat rooms, social networking services, text messages, instant messages, website postings, blogs, or a combination of means.
4) Specific Targets of School Bullying
• Homophobic bullying is sometimes distinguished because it has a particular target population. • Bullying of students with disabilities is another type of bullying with a focused target population. • Racist bullying is a third type of focused bullying that targets people of a specific race or cultural. • Religious bullying targets people who have specific religious beliefs. International research suggests that bullying is common at schools and occurs beyond elementary school; bullying occurs at all grade levels, although most frequently during elementary school. It occurs slightly less often in middle schools, and less so, but still frequently, in high schools. High school freshmen are particularly vulnerable. Most students do not report bullying to adults. Surveys from a variety of countries confirm that many victims and witnesses fail to tell teachers or even parents.
As a result, teachers may underestimate the extent of bullying in their school and may be able to identify only a portion of the actual bullies. Studies also suggest that children do not believe that most teachers intervene when told about bullying. The same is true of student-witnesses. Although most students agree that bullying is wrong, witnesses rarely tell teachers and only infrequently intervene on behalf of the victim. Some students worry that intervening will raise a bully’s wrath and make him or her the next target. Many of the European and Scandinavian studies concur that bullies tend to be aggressive, dominant, and slightly below average in intelligence and reading ability and most evidence suggests that bullies are at least of average popularity.
The belief that bullies “are insecure, deep down” is probably incorrect. Bullies do not appear to have much empathy for their victims. In Australia, research shows that bullies have low empathy levels, are generally uncooperative, and, based on self-reports, come from dysfunctional families low on love. Their parents tend to frequently criticize them and strictly control them. Dutch researchers have found a correlation between harsh physical punishments such as beatings, strict disciplinarian parents and bullying. A number of researchers believe that bullying occurs due to a combination of social interactions with parents, peers, and teachers. The history of the parent-child relationship may contribute to cultivating a bully, and low levels of peer and teacher intervention combine to create opportunities for chronic bullies to thrive. Most bullies victimize students in the same class or year, although 30 percent of victims report that the bully was older, and approximately ten percent report that the bully was younger.
It is unknown the extent to which physical, mental or speech difficulties, eyeglasses, skin color, language, height, weight, hygiene, posture, and dress play a role in victim selection. One major study found the only external characteristics…to be associated with victimization were that victims tended to be smaller and weaker than their peers. One study found that nonassertive youth who were socially incompetent had an increased likelihood of victimization. Having friends, especially ones who will help protect against bullying, appears to reduce the chances of victimization. Victims of bullying suffer consequences beyond embarrassment. Some victims experience psychological and/or physical distress, are frequently absent and cannot concentrate on schoolwork.
Research generally shows that victims have low self-esteem, and their victimization can lead to depression that can last for years after the victimization. Boys and girls who were bullied at least once a week experienced poorer health, more frequently contemplated suicide, and suffered from depression, social dysfunction, anxiety, and insomnia. Sociologist Robert Crosnoe in his book “Fitting In, Standing Out” provides new and disturbing evidence that socially marginalized youth, including victims of bullying, are less likely to go to college, which can have major implications for their adult lives. He found that feelings of not fitting in led to increased depression, marijuana use and truancy over time, which were associated with lower academic progress by the end of high school.
That, in turn, lowered students’ odds of going to college. In an effort to address the widespread social ill that stems from of bullying behavior, many schools have established anti-bullying groups comprised of students and teachers. Courses are taught by administrators, community groups, and nonprofit organizations to raise awareness of the problem. Since suicide and criminal convictions are very real considerations, it is important to make the issue less of a hidden shame and more of an open discussion in classrooms everywhere.