Bullying is a social and psychological issue among animals and humans that emerges in an emotional, verbal, or physical form. Although the issue of bullying among humans has existed for quite some time, recent research of the issue has grown significantly and indicates that bullying takes many forms and effects individuals or groups of different ages, genders, races, geographic locations, and socio-economic status. There are many causes of bullying and the goal of the analysis is to identify some of the causes, analyze recent measures of prevention, review interventions in place to assist in increased understanding of the issue, and examine how bullying has the potential to effect lifespan development at various stages.
Causes of Bullying
Prevalence of Bullying
Bullying exists among children, adults, and the elderly and is directed toward groups or individuals regardless of race, gender, sexuality, religion, and socio-economic status in every culture and different countries around the world. Bullying takes place at the workplace, school, home, community, and has recently become even more prevalent online. Bullying can take place individually (one on one) or in a group dynamic and it traditionally manifests itself through emotional, verbal, or physical abuse toward its victims. Researchers have described associations between bullying by peers and a number of different dimensions of internal distress and social problems (Thornberg, 2010). Most Common Causes of Bullying
Although there are many causes and circumstances in which bullying takes place, one of the most prevalent social representation on bullying causes is to view bullying as a reaction to deviance (Thornberg, 2010). Consequently, bullying others simply because they appear different in some way is most common. Typically among young adults, physically smaller peers, those with physical disabilities or are socially passive are commonly targets of bullying. Among young adults (especially at school), students that are overweight, intelligent, dress or speak differently, and have different physical features are more often the targets of bullying. Among adults, those who have different socio-economic status, different cultural values,
lower professional status in the workplace, and different views on gender roles or sexuality are frequently targets of bullying. Another most frequently used social representation on bullying causes refers to the explanation of bullying as social positioning; in other words, bullying takes place because it is an expression of a struggle for status, popularity, power, or friends (Thornberg, 2010). Quite often the need to appear popular among peers or influential among friends motivates bullies to target victims; particularly in social situations.
Anti-Bullying Movements and Legislation
Within the last decade, as research has expanded and individual awareness of bullying has increased, several cultural movements against bullying have gained popularity; especially among youth, youth organizations, and in the marketing and advertising world. Violent acts (such as suicide) that appeared to be a direct result of bullying has garnered much media attention and consequently, has influenced celebrities and influential people to develop campaigns against bullying designed to increase awareness. In 2000, Canada established the first National Bullying Prevention Week, in 2002, the UK passed the Charity Act Against Bullying, and in 2006, the U.S. created the National Bullying Prevention Month. Television and social media has been instrumental in the expansion of these anti-bullying movements.
Anti-Bullying Legislation in U.S. States
Along with these anti-bullying campaigns, recent history has also seen an increased demand (especially in the U.S.) for national and state legislation clearly to define and combat bullying. According to “Bullying” (2012), 48 U.S. states have anti-bullying laws, though there is wide variation in their strength and focus. The more violent acts resulting from bullying has traditionally and especially recently become the object of media attention. This increase in legislation is a clear indication that bullying, its scope, and its effects are not only becoming more prevalent but its negative effects on the individual, group, community, and country are becoming better understood and more readily addresses.
Responses to Bullying
Although most individuals disapprove of bullying, very few intervene and sometimes directly promote the behavior with their unwillingness to address the bully or assist the victim. Often, bullying happens in the presence of groups of uninvolved bystanders. Much of the recent campaigns against bullying aims to educate bystanders of the value of “speaking out” against the bully if the opportunity presents itself. Research has indicated that if a bully encounters a negative response from an individual or group, it clearly challenges the behavior of the bully and indicates that the group views the behavior as unacceptable. This intervention has the potential to decrease the likelihood of the behavior continuing and create an environment or culture that rejects the behavior altogether. Open communication, conversation, and discussions with peers, parents, and psychologists, appear to be the most effective influence of individuals becoming more comfortable with intervening when bullying occurs. Connections to Lifespan Development
Negative Long-Term Effects
“There is a growing body of research that indicates that individuals, whether child or adult, who are persistently subjected to abusive behavior are at risk of stress-related illness that can sometimes lead to suicide. Those who have been the targets of bullying can suffer from long- term emotional and behavioral problems. Bullying can cause loneliness, depression, anxiety, lead to low self-esteem and increased susceptibility to illness. In the long term it can lead to posttraumatic stress disorder and an inability to form relationships (Alifanovienė, Daiva; Šapelytė, Odeta; Valančiutė, Eglė, 2010). Consequently, the emotional, verbal, or physical effects of bullying can affect life-span development; particularly cognitive development. Bullying and Cognitive Development
Because cognitive development heavily influences the individual’s perception of the world, bullying can produce a view that the individual is ostracized or rejected by his or her community. Recent research has indicated that boys experience more direct forms of bullying whereas girls experience more subtle, emotional, and indirect forms of bullying that creates feelings of isolation and rejection from the group. The rejected child develops social cognitive biases that paradoxically result in repetition of the original, problematic behavior. With less opportunity to mix with the group, the rejected child has fewer opportunities for social practice and the long term prediction is one of maladaptive functioning (Dixon, 2007). Conclusion
In conclusion, the issue of bullying continues to play a major role in the lives of individuals of every age and walk of life. Media traditionally has highlighted the often violent results of bullying, however recent research, anti-bullying campaigns, and anti-bullying legislation have contributed to increased efforts of exploring the causes, short-term and long-term development issues, and improved intervention strategies to better combat the issue.
Thornberg, R. (2010, April). Schoolchildren’s social representations on bullying causes. . Psychology in the Schools. , 47(4), 311-327. Alifanovienė, Daiva; Šapelytė, Odeta; Valančiutė, Eglė. (2010, June). Causes of bullying and ways of solution. Viewpoints of Pupils of Specialised Educational Institution. , (2), 44-55. Dixon, R. (2007, August). Ostracism: one of the many causes of bullying in groups. Journal of School Violence. , 6(3), 3-26. Knutsen, S., Thornberg, R.(2011, June). Teenagers’ explanations of bullying. . Child & Youth Care Forum. , 40(3), 177-192. Wikipedia. (2012). Bullying. Retrieved from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bullying#Intervention
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