Blogs » Neurognosis » Same sex praise matters to kids who bully peers

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We all know about bullying in schools. Some of us bullied, some were bullied and others found themselves on the sidelines possibly cheering, jeering or separating ourselves from the actions. Regardless of our affiliation to the acts of bullying, most people are aware of it and what a social problem it is.

Bullying in recent years has capture some more spotlight time with cyberbullying on social networking sites online and through text messaging via cellphones. On more than one occassion the national news has mentioned a child (mostly adolescents) who have taken their own lives due to the stress, anxiety and depression brought about by bullying from peers.

So what makes bullies bully? Is it just as Mom said and they're "just jealous" or was Dad right when he said that they just need someone to "stand up to them" and "give 'em a good ol' fashioned @$$ whoopin'"? Well, it's actually much more complex than that - most things usually are. However, one recently published study in the journal Child Development found that evaluation of the bullies by their peers are a major driving force (Veenstra, Lindenberg, Munniksma & Dijkstra, 2010). They looked at 481 elementary school children with a mean age of 10.5 years. They found that same gender praise and support for their actions (the article uses the term 'affection' although this term is usually associated with physical actions such as hugging/kissing and the like but social groups may also offer affection in the form of praise, pats on the back, reassurance and so forth) was a major driving force behind bullying. So, for boys who bully, only the praise of other boys really matters which is interesting. It would be also interesting to see how this may change after puberty and bullying in highschools.

This also plays into who bullies chose as their victims. They usually will choose those who are not well liked by their peers and weak in order to ensure they will recieve that status and praise from their peers.

These findings can have implications for bullying prevention programs in targeting not just bullies or their victims but all the students as a whole. One focus could be upon student perception of the actions and how they handle, interpret and react to bullying. Problems may also need to be addressed not only with school staff and the students but with the family of the students as well. Parents play a large role in the behavior of their children whether they realize it or not through reinforcement of particular behaviors, modeling of behaviors and so forth. However, many schools across the nation have instituted programs to combat bullying. Unfortunately many also have so such programs or any resources available for students. The literature shows that bullying can have a large effect upon kids and even carry over into adulthood (Sourander et al., 2007).

References

Veenstra, R., Lindenberg, S., Munniksma, A. & Dijkstra, J. (2010). The complex relation between bullying, victimization, acceptance, and rejection: Giving special attention to status, affection, and sex differences. Child Development, 81(2), 480-486.

Sourander, A., Jensen, P., Ronning, J., Niemela, S., Helenius, H., Sillanmaki, L. et al. (2007). What is the early adulthood outcome of boys who bully or are bullied in childhood? The Finnish "From a boy to a man" study. Pediatrics, 120(2), 397-404.