Profile of an Adolescent Bully

Custom Student Mr. Teacher ENG 1001-04 21 September 2016

Profile of an Adolescent Bully

From 2000 to the present time, there have been well over 600 peer-reviewed articles published on bullying. When compared to the less than 190 articles that were published from 1980 to 2009, one has to acknowledge that this area of research has exploded. Research indicates that between 10% and 30% of children and youth are involved in bullying and that bullying also increases during the middle school period as children enter adolescence (Cook, Williams, Guerra, Kim & Sadek, 2010, p. 65).

Talk to any adolescent in school today and they will have their own story about their experience with bullying and there is a consistent agreement that it is becoming more complex to address. This essay is intended to inform the audience of some of the different behaviors and characteristics of bullies, the different methods of bullying, and to explore the possible reasons for origination in order to assist in future prevention and intervention efforts. Where is the Research? While performing research for this paper it became quickly noticeable that studies profiling a bully’s traits are scarcely performed.

The focus of most research is in areas such as the methods of harassment used by bullies (i. e. cyber bullying), or the ramifications towards society caused by being bullied [i. e. school shootings (Barnett, Miller-Perrin, Perrin, 2011, p. 280). ] There is little research focused solely on profiling the bully him/herself. If society is going to make a longstanding change and truly break the cycle of harassment between adolescents than the background of the bully should be explored and assessed.

While a profile of a potential victim is offered, it is used to better complete an accurate understanding of the adolescent bully. Definition of a Bully Bullying is commonly defined as a specific type of aggressive behavior intended to distress a vulnerable person and includes intent to cause harm, occurs repeatedly and involves a power imbalance (Barnett et al. , 2011, p. 160). During childhood, bullies are rejected, isolated, and disliked by their peers.

Social acceptance for the bully changes during adolescence to being well accepted and liked by their peers. This could be due to the children’s gradual transition into adolescence resulting in an increased knowledge in social problem solving, or gaining an ability to negotiate a confrontation with others thereby diffusing volatile situations (Cook et al. , 2010, p. 71). Two Types of Bully’s Currently, there are two types of bully’s that are invading American grade schools, the typical bully and the bully victim.

The typical bully. An adolescent described as being loud, assertive, somewhat socially and academically challenged, hostile, possesses negative attitudes and beliefs about others, minimal problem-solving skills, and comes from a family environment typically characterized by conflict and poor parental monitoring (Cook et al. , 2010, pp. 75-76, Batsche & Knoff, 1994, p. 166). The bully victim. An adolescent holding negative attitudes and beliefs about him/herself and others, has minimal social competence, does not have adequate social problem-solving skills, has poor academic performance, and s not only rejected and isolated by peers but also negatively influenced by the peers with whom he or she interacts with (Cook et al. , 2010, p. 76).

A possible motive for a bully victim to become aggressive at school is that they may be experiencing their own victimization due to the emotional and psychological effects of being a victim at home (Rivers, Poteat, Noret, Ashurst, 2009, p. 212), and are exposed to family models of aggression resulting in violence contributing to violence (Barnett et al. , 2011). Beyond Primary Roles There has been a significant change as to how bullying behavior is understood.

With the expansion past primary roles such as bully and victim, Rivers et al. have defined secondary roles that can categorize all participants of a victimization scenario. The assistant bully plays an active but secondary role to the bully. The reinforcer is considered to be a pupil that joins in laughing at the victim or encouraged the bully. Outsiders are aware that the bullying is taking place but will actively remove themselves from the situation. Lastly, the defender is seen as one that directly intervenes or displays help-seeking behavior when involved in bullying situation, and is most times a female (2009, p. 12).

Motives The motives of bullies range from satisfying the need for power or to be affiliated with another person or group that is powerful, to a partial or total inability to manage anger. Dependent on their environment at home, they may exert themselves to attain a sense of control in their lives. On closer observation, bullies often demonstrate problems with impulsivity, a need to dominate others, and show little sympathy or empathy for their victims. Some bullies even admit that they “like” being a bully and may have a slightly justified outlook on their social role. Parents of Bullies

Research has shown that parents of bullies prefer authoritarian parenting styles, will sometimes reject their child or show hostility, may show inconsistent parenting while supervising at a minimum, and have poor problem-solving skills (Batsche & Knoff, 1994, p. 166). The parents of adolescent bullies have failed to model positive conflict resolution or how to satisfy their need for attention, therefore the bully will continue with harassing others because it has proven to be an effective strategy (Cook et al. , 2010). The bully may also be witnessing interparental violence at home (Barnett et al. , 2011, 161).

Rivers et al. have shown that children who witness violence at home regularly are more likely to require counseling to overcome the emotional and relationship difficulties they experience (2009). Not addressing negative behavior patterns may result in the behaviors continuing into adulthood, resulting in bullying others at their workplace, and increasing their likeliness of being convicted of a criminal offense during adulthood than their noninvolved peers. They are also at a higher risk for experiencing psychiatric problems, difficulties in romantic relationships and substance abuse problems (Cook et al. 2010, p. 79).

Leaving this issue unaddressed also allows for the bully to possibly simulate the same environment that was conducive to their becoming a bully while raising their offspring therefore possibly making bullying intergenerational. Different Modes of Bullying Once seen as mostly physical in nature, bullying has now transformed into a ten-headed monster that spans from physical/direct bullying to various forms of indirect bullying such as turning friends against their peers, threats, and teasing.

Bullying has also been made more complex and autonomous with the introduction and ease of accessibility to technology. Now bullies use tools such as text, e-mails, websites and chat rooms to torment their victims (Barnett et al. , 2011, p. 279). Measures of bullying. These measures need to encompass the three broad domains of behaviors that constitute bullying: direct physical bullying, direct verbal bullying, and indirect bullying in which the person or group of persons doing the bullying is not necessarily identified (Carbone-Lopez, Esbensen & Brick, 2010, p. 334).

Most common types of bullying are verbal, then physical, then threats. Boys have always gravitated more towards physical bullying while girls tend to verbally bully their victims (Barnett et al. , 2011, p. 280). One of the reasons suggested was that girl verbal skills develop earlier than boys and until recently, it was seen as socially unacceptable and unladylike to physically bully (Strohmeier, Wagner, Spiel & von Eye, 2010, p. 187).

The general concept of bullying entails a distinct type of aggression characterized by a repeated and systematic abuse of power. There are many acets to bullying that include but are not limited to physical aggression, verbal aggression (e. g. name calling and threats), relational aggression (e. g. , social isolation and rumor spreading), and cyber-aggression (e. g. , text messaging and e-mailing hurtful messages or images), a new venue for inflicting harm in an increasingly electronic youth culture (Strohmeier et al. , 2010, p. 187 ). The technology boom of today has brought new ways of communicating with each other. E-mail, instant messaging, Facebook, Myspace and texting are some of the new facets of communication.

Gone are the days of writing letters or simply giving someone a phone call; people find personal confrontation easier to avoid and use these technologies to hide behind instead. The art of conversation is quickly giving way to this type of messaging and avoidance. Today’s society finds it much easier to verbally attack someone behind a phone or computer than to do it face-to-face.

Victims Characteristics. Victims are characterized as submissive and non-assertive (Barnett et al. , 2011, p. 161). More often being smaller than the bully; the victim may be more sensitive, unhappy, cautious, quiet, and/or withdrawn (Cook et al. 2010, p. 65). Because the victim allows for the bullying to continue, one can only assume that they have passive or submissive characteristics. They may also be insecure and will not normally assert themselves. When attacked they withdraw and cry and since they are vulnerable, they will not retaliate. There is also an alternative type of victim termed the “provocative victim. ” These victims are overactive, may have irritating behaviors, and are anxious along with showing aggressive traits (Green, Felix, Sharkey, Furlong & Kras, 2012, p. 1).

These types of victims could possibly be a bully victim in the making. Age range. Victims are normally the same age and in the same class as the bully (Rivers et al. , 2009, p. 212). Therefore the bully will spend enough time with the victim to know them well. The bully does not have as much opportunity to victimize younger students since the chance to be around them lessens as they progress through school. The number of older pupils with opportunity to bully at decreased risk to selves decreases as the bully ages. Gender specifics. When explored, the reasons for bullying another peer differ by gender.

A study done by Beaty & Alexeyev states that boy bullies pick on others because they “do not fit in,” are physically weak, or due to the clothes they wore (2008, p. 2). Victims also include those that are special needs, deviate from the norm, or differ in sexual orientation or race (Barnett, 2011, p. 161). Girls also primarily bully others because they “do not fit in,” but differ greatly when choosing who to pick on according to cognitive abilities. While boys have a tendency to victimize other pupils with special needs, girls chose to victimize what would be considered as “overachievers” (Rivers et al. 2009, p. 213).

Conclusion Now knowing all of this information, how can it be put to use when addressing bullies in their earliest stages? Schools can use this profile of a bully as a window into what makes them become the people they are. Teachers will be able to identify a bully and address background situations such as family structure to offer counseling to the bully and their family. They could also assist victims within the school in learning social skills to deter bullies from picking on them as well.


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  • University/College: University of Chicago

  • Type of paper: Thesis/Dissertation Chapter

  • Date: 21 September 2016

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