Saturday, June 30, 2007

Causes of Bullying

Bullying and violent behavior are not a result of one factor alone. There are several factors that have contributed to bullying. This includes the familial/home factors, school community factors, individual factors, and peer influence.

Familial/home factor
Family discord is the major factor that contributed to bullying. Parents who display aggressive behaviors at home produce bullies. They unconsciously teach their children anti-social behavior (Honrejas, 1999). In Loeber & Stouthamer-Loeber (1986) studies, lack of attention and warmth to the child, aggressive modeling at home, and poor supervision of the child have been found to cause an opportunity for bullying behavior to occur. Aggressive behavior in children tends to increase if they witness violence done by the father toward the mother (Jaffe, Wolfe & Wilson, 1990). The above findings support Albert Bandura’s social learning theory, which states that behavior is a reflection of people observing and imitating others. Children learn criminal behavior by associating others and imitating their behaviors (Regoli, R.M. et al, 2000).
The modeling of behavior includes verbal and physical aggression by parents towards each other. The home is known to be the most violent place in the United States (Straus, 1994). Children from violent homes are three to four times more likely to become bully. In Duncan’s (1999) finding, children from harsh home environments engage in more bullying behaviors (as bullies and /or victims) than children from nurturing home (as cited in Gubler, R. & Croxall, K., 2005).
Parenting styles plays a vital role in the early socialization of children regarding behavior. Students identified, as bullies were 1.65 times more likely to come from homes with an authoritarian style of child rearing compared to a participatory style (Baldry A.C. & Farrington D.P., 2000 as cited in Dake et al., 2003). A significant correlation existed between victimization of the child and high levels of demanding attitudes by parents. Parents who allowed the child few opportunities to control social circumstances may foster a passive orientation that could become problematic for the child (Ladd G.W. & Ladd B.K, 1998 as cited in Dake et al, 2003).
Early socialization of children also plays a role in the likelihood of becoming involved in bullying behavior (Swhartz D., Dodge K.A; Dake et al., 2003). Significant relationship was found among socioeconomic status and involvement in bullying. Students of lower socioeconomic status were more likely to become involved in bullying others or become the victims of bullying than non lower socioeconomic status students (Wolke, D. et al., 2001; Dake, et al., 2003). Furthermore, family composition is found to be associated with either bullying or victimization. Victimized children were 1.5 times more likely to come from separated or divorced families than from intact families (Bond et al., 2001 as cited in Dake et al., 2003)

School Community Factor

Just as low levels of supervision in home are associated with the development of bully problems, so too, are low levels of supervision in school, particularly in the playground or schoolyard, and in the hallways (Suderman, 1996). A negative school climate where negative behavior gets most of the attention encourages the formation of cliques and bullying (Espelage, et al, 1999). Schools located in neighborhood with high turnover also have more bullying (Johnson & Johnson, 1995). Weak school leadership and disorganization, low emphasis on academics, lack of support for students, and unclear rules and norms correlate with higher rates of school violence (Dusenbury, et al., 1997).
In the school environment, bullying is often unnoticed or ignored and supervision in the schools is many times inadequate. The amount of adult supervision is directly tied to the frequency and severity of bullying in schools (Saunders, 1997). Crowded conditions, such as school playgrounds, encourage bullying. Bystanders who admire the exploits of bullies serve as models for others and may reinforce the increase of bullying behavior (Sullivan et al: 2004:19). Findings on links between teacher-attitude and bullying problems reported teachers’ involvement to negative school climate. In Olweus (1993) research, 25 percent of teachers see nothing wrong with bullying and put-downs and some teachers threaten, tease, shame or intimidate students to maintain control of their classroom.

Individual Factor

Not only do adolescents undergo ravages of physical and emotional change. They also bring with them their conditioning, their innate sense of self, and their temperaments. Temperament has been known to be the best-documented individual child factor in bullying. Temperament refers to basic tendencies by children to develop certain personality styles and interpersonal behaviors (Suderman et al., 1996). Suderman found that children who have impulsive and active temperament might be more inclined to be bullies. With boys, physical strength may serve as a characteristic associated with bullying. Bullies often have attachment disorders (Weinhold, 1995). White et al (1990 as cited in Giller, Hagell, & Ruller 1998:145) found that “lack of control” was the dimension most strongly related with externalizing behavior, which is being disruptive and antisocial. According to Olwuess (1993) bullies are those who like to be in charge, dominate and assert power. They like to win at any costs. They crave attention, so they show off and act tough in order to get it from peers (Olweus, 1994). They lack empathy for their victims and have difficulty feeling compassion (Olweus, 1993a).
Tracing the patterns of the bullies’ individual characteristics is Alfred Adler’s concept of social interest. Adler defines social interest as an innate need to live in harmony and friendship with others and to aspire toward development of perfect society. (Hergenhahn, B.R. & Olson, M.H., 1999:105). Adler concluded that the extent to which individuals experienced feelings of inferiority directly affected their capacity to "show interest in the interests of others” (Guttenberg, R., 2005). Bullies are motivated by the false belief that having power over others will give them a sense of significance and belonging. Thus, their low level of social interest, or concern for others, decreases their capacity for empathy (Guttenberg, R., 2005).
Several individual characteristics seem to link with violence. These include; student’s low commitment to education, poor school performance, and belonging to a negative peer group. Other personal characteristics related to violence include; impulsiveness, low self-control, & rejection by peers prior to adolescence. (Gottfredson, 1997; Dusenbury, et al., 1997)

Peer Influence

During early adolescence, the function and importance of the peer group change dramatically. It is during adolescence that peer groups become stratified and issues of acceptance and popularity become increasingly important. Research indicates, for example, that toughness and aggressiveness are important status considerations for boys, while appearance is a central determinant of social status among girls. (Espelage, D., 2003 ) The social nature of bullying often includes most peers in the class or group who either actively involved or passively aware of the bullying process (Finger, et al., 2003) Bullies may continue bullying in an attempt to gain further reinforcement or non-punishment from their peers (Parada, 2002a as cited in Finger et al., 2003). Moreover, individual’s social identity is an integral and important part of that person’s self-concept. As a result, they may heighten their use of bullying because they believe these behaviors are acceptable in their peer group (Hinkley, Marsh, Craven, Mcineary, and Parada, 2002).
Important findings by Parker and Asher (1987 as cited in Giller, et al 1998:148) revealed that aggression was established as predictor of later delinquency and later studies had confirmed its association with antisocial behavior, which also tended to show that the strongest association was found among aggression and peer rejection. Peer rejection at a younger age predicts antisocial behavior and delinquency at a later age. (Coie et al., 1992, as cited in Giller, 1998:149)
Among the issues of school violence, school bullying – has turn great attention among the media, educators and legislators most specifically in America. Definitely, bullying is a serious problem especially because victims of bullying are at risk of experiencing academic, emotional, social and behavioral difficulties. (Bear, G. 2005: 13)

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