Could your child be a bully?
Boys and girls use physical violence to exert their power, researchers say.
February 27th, 2013
05:00 AM ET

Could your child be a bully?

By Jacque Wilson, CNN

Programming note: Don't miss the premiere of "The Bully Effect" on "AC360" at 10 p.m. ET Thursday, Feburary 28.

(CNN) - Eva was a bully. Tall for her age, she used her height to intimidate her peers. She made fun of those without designer clothes and got suspended several times for fighting.

She was also well-liked, outgoing, funny - and a victim of bullying herself.

"When you're in junior high, you're just trying to figure out who you are," the 24-year-old Los Angeles resident remembers. She says she bullied others because she was, as were most kids, insecure.

As a parent, you probably have a picture in your head of the kid you'd vote Most Likely To Bully Others. He's burly, wears a letter (or leather) jacket and has been a senior longer than most students are in high school.

But experts say the bullies tormenting students nowadays aren't like the ones we see on the big screen. It's not just a small group of jocks, or the loner stoner pushing kids into lockers between periods. It can be almost anyone, at any time. And the most likely targets of bullies? The bullies themselves.

Sociologist Robert Faris calls it "social combat." He says the majority of bullying takes place in the middle of a school's social hierarchy, where students are jostling with each other for higher status.

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  1. Mark "Darrin" Kemp

    It has been a mystery to me why sociologists get the lion share of media attention when experts in more relevant sciences do not. Perhaps "grandfathering" is afoot.

    The reason why most cannot see why so many people can exhibit some form of bullying behavior is we have a narrow view of what bullying is and what bullies are – and none of us like to think we can be bullies. The truth is that most forms of intimidation that occur are often ignored by school staff and “experts” alike. Moreover, asking “why” through focusing on the individual rather than human nature, dominates those with the media and monetary attention.

    The social combat that Robert points out is explained from the vantage point of the social world not science. It suffers from the same “what’s wrong with the individual” viewpoint, which views the situation as maladaptive because it isn’t acceptable in the societal view. Since so much of human nature is in opposition to the mores of society you’d think they would have at least started to ask, “Is this just human nature?” The preponderance of evidence across scientific disciplines reveals that our social nature, or social instinct, is the source of behaviors that exclude – and even the source of why we like to label nonconforming individuals as somehow defective. The maladaptive view such as insecurity or lashing out as the main reason for such behavior is not supported by the evidence.

    Excluding behavior is so prevalent among children because the neural equipment needed to behave as society expects is not yet developed. Simply put, social instinct is online and in full force as soon as children enter kindergarten while executive function is about two decades away from being finished developing.

    Sociology is the wrong discipline as is education. Both fields have failed society in very large ways and the main reason is they aren’t interested in other disciplinary viewpoints. I’ve traveled far and wide seeking people in those fields who had interest in a different vantage point. Before you can get past introductory remarks you get responses like, “I don’t believe that.” They even go so far as to say that neuroscience (the brain) has nothing to do with it. It is as bad as some today holding the belief the earth is flat.

    Until such is simply self-imposed naiveté and the wrong disciplines dominate discussions surrounding bullying and anti-bullying efforts, the problem will continue to grow.

    Could your 10 year old be the next victim of suicide? This is serious enough we need to let go of dogma keeping us from solving such problems.

    March 1, 2013 at 10:59 am |