The roots of bullying cross all cultures and genders

At its heart bullying is a deliberate and conscious intent to harm another person. According to researchers at Kansas State University, bullying is a "violent behavior that is often misunderstood and at times overlooked within schools. It is defined as a specific type of aggression that is intended to harm or disturb, and that occurs repeatedly over time, either on school grounds or on the way to and from school." While shy, insecure children are often targeted, that is not always the case.

Bullying involves a loss of power, security, belonging, self- esteem and control on the part of the victim. The interaction between bully and victim hinges on an imbalance between a more powerful person and a less powerful person. It can include one-on-one bullying, or it can take the form of one person and a group of people.

For girls, power is often in the form of relationships or friendships. These form the social scene and can provide benefits to the girls associated with the bully. It can also provide punishments to those that are not in the inner circle.

Often times the bully will surround herself with her 'lieutenants' or fellow girl soldiers who cater to her every whim. This can include giving the girl bully the answers to the homework or even doing the bully's homework. It also may include this clique working exclusively together on school projects; choosing the people to hang out with at lunch, recess, field trips, and other social events; complimenting the bully in an obsequious manner; and even conforming to the bully's choice of clothes.

For boys, the bully may be someone with much more social status than the victim, perceived or actual. First and foremost, he is usually a kind of class leader. As with girl bullies, other kids are reluctant to cross him for fear of becoming his next victim.

He can be the jock, the star athlete, the class clown, but this is not always the case. He can also function in the role of the teacher's pet and engage in acts of bullying right under the teacher's radar.

How can this be? The teacher or coach may have a certain perception of the student, often highly positive, and may tend to ignore or not associate negative behaviors with the bully.

Warning Signs of a Bully

As noted above, bullies come in all shapes, sizes, and genders. Also, research shows that bullying occurs across all cultures. Bullying behavior is prevalent throughout the world and it cuts across socio-economic and racial/ethnic lines.

According to and research done at Kansas State University, the typical bully...

* Teases, threatens, kicks others;

* is hot-tempered, impulsive, uncontrolled;

* is aggressive toward adults;

* is tough, shows not sympathy;

* blames others and/or unwilling to accept responsibility for one's own actions;

* has had recent experience of humiliation, shame, loss, or rejection;

* intimidates peers or younger children;

* engages in a pattern of threats;

* is a victim of abuse or neglect (physical, sexual, or emotional);

* is a witness to abuse or violence in the home;

* may use alcohol or illicit drugs;

* may have disciplinary problems at school or in the community (delinquent behavior);

* may have had past destruction of property or vandalism;

* may display cruelty to animals.

What causes bullying?

Some of the family factors that help create a bully include:

* A lack of warmth or attention at home;

* modeling of aggressive behavior at home;

* poor supervision;

Not everything can be blamed on the family. Some bullies are naturally geared toward their abusive behaviors, especially if they have the following:

* an active, impulsive personality;

* a lack of empathy for others;

* a craving for attention and approval from others.

Why do kids bully?

There are many reasons why this behavior occurs. Certainly we need to look at the characteristics mentioned in the previous section, but there are other reasons as well.

A community college student of mine, 20-year-old " Sue", was a bright, polite young woman. In a recent social problems class she reported that in high school she was the bully, and she liked being one.

"It was fun," she stated. "It was also fun to see how much I could get away with. It was fun to see how I intimidated other kids and made people nervous."

For her, bullying was a kind of game, and in my course she seemed to lack relationships with her peers.

Other kids bully because they see other kids get away it while the teacher turns a blind eye to the actions. Others report that joining the bully gives them access to the right crowd and keeps them there.

Some reasons reported include making the bully feel smarter, stronger, more popular, and more secure than they normally feel. Finally, for some kids bullying others ensures that they will not become bullied themselves.

Mary Sanford may be reached by writing to[[In-content Ad]]