ERIC Identifier: ED459405
Publication Date: 2001-11-00
Author: Coy, Doris Rhea
Source: ERIC Clearinghouse on
Counseling and Student Services Greensboro NC.
Bullying. ERIC/CASS Digest.
According to some estimates, 160,000 children skip school each
day because of intimidation by their peers. The National Center for Educational
Statistics reports that 77 percent of middle and high school students in small
mid-western towns have been bullied. And a newly released study from the
National Institutes of Health published in the Journal of the American Medical
Association reveals that almost a third of 6th to 10th graders -- 5.7 million
children nationwide -- have experienced some kind of bullying (Nansel et al.,
2001). Bullying has been a persistent problem that, with the heightened
attention to school violence, has only recently been recognized as a pervasive
issue needing immediate focus.
WHAT IS BULLYING?
Bullying has been defined in many ways.
It can be defined as a specific type of aggression in which (1) the behavior is
intended to harm or disturb, (2) the behavior occurs repeatedly over time, and
(3) there is an imbalance of power, with a more powerful person or group
attacking a less powerful one (Mayo Clinic, 2001). Delwyn Tattum and Eva Tattum
(1992) proposed the following definition: "Bullying" is the willful, conscious
desire to hurt another and put him/her under stress." Dan Olweus, noted bullying
researcher, defines bullying as exposing a person repeatedly, and over time, to
negative actions on the part of one or more students (Olweus, 1993). These
definitions all convey the message that bullying is something that someone
repeatedly does or says to gain power and dominance over another, including any
action or implied action, such as threats, intended to cause fear and distress.
The behavior has to be repeated on more than one occasion and the definition
must include evidence that those involved intended or felt fear.
Bullying can take the form of name calling, put-downs, saying or writing
inappropriate things about a person, deliberately excluding individuals from
activities, not talking to a person, threatening a person with bodily harm,
taking or damaging a person's things, hitting or kicking a person, making a
person do things he/she does not want to do, taunting, teasing and coercion.
Bullying can be physical, verbal, psychological, or a combination of these
TYPES OF BULLYING
Two types of bullies are addressed in the
literature: aggressive bullies and passive bullies. An aggressive bully is seen
as an individual who is belligerent, fearless, coercive, confident, tough, and
impulsive. This type of behavior typically comes from individuals who have a low
tolerance for frustration coupled with a stronger inclination toward violence
than that of children in general.
Passive bullies are also referred to as anxious bullies. They rarely provoke
others or take the initiative in a bullying incident. Passive bullies are
usually associated with aggressive bullies and, hence, often take the
less-aggressive role. As groups, the aggressive bully will instigate the
bullying situation while the passive bully supports his/her behavior and/or
begins to actively participate once the bullying begins. The passive bully
aligns with the more powerful and, relatively speaking, more popular,
action-oriented aggressive bully, earning the passive bully the descriptors of
"camp follower" and "hanger-on."
WHERE DOES MOST BULLYING OCCUR?
Some researchers have
suggested that twice as many children are bullied in the school environment than
in any other location. According to the National Center for Educational
Statistics, "bullying appears to take place more in middle or junior high
schools than in high schools" (Nolin et al., 1995).
It has been suggested that bullying could be greatly reduced if teachers
provided better supervision of students during free play, recess, the noon hour,
or on the school bus. Teachers also need to be present in the hallway during
class changes and during restroom breaks. Many schools have failed to address
the problem and many ignore bullying when it is observed. Not only are students
bullies but teachers have also been identified as bullies. Many teachers see
bullying as a normal, natural part of growing up and are therefore indifferent
when they see it occur.
Ethnic minority children are at risk for
racial bullying. Rather than being a part of the student body as a whole, they
often cluster together in smaller groups similar to their own culture. Name
calling is one of the common techniques utilized in racial bullying. Individual
taunts, such as fatty, carrot top, and four-eyes, are directed toward the child
but taunts are also directed to his/her family as well as his/her ethnic group.
Racial bullying often begins in the preschool years and is transmitted
intentionally from parents to children. The community attitude exerts a
pervasive influence and may knowingly, or unknowingly, exhibit racist
tendencies. Communities that address the problem up front are more likely to
create an atmosphere where people of all ethnic and minority groups feel
Sexual harassment is any unwelcome sexual
behavior that interferes with an individual's life. It can be viewed as
unwelcome sexual advances, a demand for sexual favors, touching in a sexual way
or accusations of homosexuality and lesbianism.
Schools are currently responsible for protecting students from harassment
based on sex. The U.S. Office for Civil Rights publishes the legal principles
"requiring educational institutions that receive federal funds to take steps
reasonably calculated to stop harassment when it occurs and prevent recurrence"
(Office for Civil Rights, 2001).
HOW DO CHILDREN BECOME BULLIES?
The literature addresses
three areas as to the possible reasons a child becomes a bully: child rearing
influences, characteristics of the child and factors of the environment (Ahmad & Smith, 1994; Batsche & Knoff, 1994; Smith & Sharp, 1994).
The child may not have received warmth and caring from the mother: there may
have been a failure to bond with the parents or the child may not have felt
loved. Many parents fail to set limits for their children's behavior and the
parents may have used assertive disciplinary methods where control and coercion
were a part of the discipline. There are also indications that inconsistent
discipline on the part of the parents can produce a bully. If a parent exhibits
aggressive behavior and if the child is encouraged to assert him/herself in
socially unacceptable ways, the child may become a bully.
of the Child
There are no distinct characteristics of a child who bullies. Boys tend to be
more aggressive and more overactive and hyperactive than girls.
The following characteristics are associated with predicting children with a
high level of difficult behaviors:
difficulties adapting to new situations;
irregular eating and sleeping habits;
negative moods, strong moods; and
of the Environment
American homes and schools do not provide negative consequences for bullies
and society sees bullying as transient or inconsequential. In fact, on
television and in movies bullies often go unchecked and are sometimes rewarded.
For boys, bullying is seen as "standing up for himself" or as "all boy." In the
school environment, bullying is often unnoticed or ignored and supervision in
the schools are many times inadequate. Crowded conditions, such as on school
playgrounds, encourage bullying. Bystanders who admire the exploits of bullies
serve as models for others.
WHAT CAN BE DONE ABOUT BULLYING?
Schools that wish to
address this problem have a variety of avenues to pursue. The school can
introduce a code of conduct which is a whole-school disciplinary policy with a
clearly spelled out set of rules and regulations that should make it possible
for all school personnel to work together safely and productively. It should
state clearly, with examples, what is good and bad behavior along with
respective rewards and sanctions.
The school needs to establish a whole-school approach to bullying by
establishing an awareness of the bullying problem. The school needs to evaluate
how friendly it is toward bullying. Awareness of bullying both within and
outside of the school can help reduce the act. Also, increased school safety
features, such as video monitoring, can provide more protection to students.
Students should be encouraged to report incidents of bullying by promising
the students anonymity. The school should develop a student watch program by
training student volunteers to patrol and report instances of bullying. In the
classroom teachers may use stories and drama to increase awareness of bullying
and bully courts can be set up for addressing bullying issues. The school should
provide training for students in problem-solving approaches, which include
conflict resolution training, conflict management and quality circles. All of
these can be positive ways of addressing inappropriate behavior. These
activities make the school safer and let students know that bullying is a
violation of children's rights.
A number of intervention programs are
available for schools to utilize. The development of a whole-school bullying
policy might be one of the first steps in addressing the problem. Improvement of
the school environment by having the playground, corridors, and restrooms
supervised by teaching personnel might be another priority. To further address
the problem, empower students by offering training in conflict resolution
programs, peer help and assertiveness training.
Bullying is a destructive social problem that
needs attention. Schools have the responsibility to create safe places for
students where they can grow without fear. Greater awareness of the issue and a
community-wide focus on prevention can begin to secure that our schools are
ERIC/CASS Virtual Library on Bullying in
Schools. ERIC Clearinghouse on Counseling & Student Services (ERIC/CASS)
ERIC Parent Brochure: What Should Parents and Teachers Know About Bullying?
This brochure characterizes bullies and their victims, offers advice on how
schools and parents can prevent bullying and intervene when it becomes a
problem, and suggests sources for further information.
ERIC Digest: Bullying in Schools (1997)
ERIC Digest: Easing the Teasing: How Parents Can Help Their Children (1999)
Ahmad, Y., & Smith, P. K. (1994). Bullying
in schools and the issues of sex differences. In John Archer (Ed), Male
violence. London: Routledge.
Askew, S. (1989). Aggressive behavior in boys: To what extent is it
institutionalized? In D. P. Tattum & D. A. Lane (Eds.), Bullying in schools
(pp. 59-71). Hanley, Stoke-on-Trent: Trentham Books.
Batsche, G. M., & Knoff, H. M. (1994). Bullies and their victims:
Understanding a pervasive problem in the schools. School Psychology Review
Mayo Clinic. (2001). "Headline Watch: One-third of U.S. kids affected by
bullying." Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research (MFMER).
Nansel, T.R., Overpeck, M., Pilla, R.S., Ruan, W.J., Simons-Morton, S., &
Scheidt, S. (2001). Bully behaviors among US youth: Prevalence and association
with psychosocial adjustment. Journal of the American Medical Association, 285,
Nolin, M. J., Davies, E., & Chandler, K. (1995). Student victimization at
school: Statistics in brief. Washington, DC: National Center for Education
Statistics. ED 388 439.
Office for Civil Rights. (2001). "Resources for Addressing Sexual
Harassment." U.S. Department of Education.
Olweus, D. (1993). Bullying at school: What we know and what we can do.
Cambridge, MA: Blackwell. ED 384 437.
Smith, P. K., & Sharp, S. (Eds.). (1994). School bullying: insights and
perspectives. London: Routledge. ED 387 223.
Tattum, D and Tattum, E. (1992) Social Education and Personal Development.
London,: David Fulton.