February 25, 2002
Guest Editorial: Who's a bully?
by Karen Lytle Blaha
A key element of bullying behavior is an imbalance of abuse or power, write Cori Brewster and Jennifer Railsback in Schoolwide Prevention of Bullying, a Northwest Regional Educational Laboratory free booklet that tells the research about bullying, the effects of bullying that spread beyond those involved, and school programs to prevent bullying behavior.
It's important to define just what bullying is, say the authors, in order to identify it.
For example, conflict between kids who are about equal in social status and the ability to defend themselves probably is not a bullying situation.
Bullying tends to increase through the elementary grades, peak in middle school, and then fall off in 11th and 12th grades.
Here are some of the signs that a bullying situation exists, according to research cited in the booklet. The student who bullies:
€ regularly engages in hurtful teasing, name-calling, or intimidating others, particularly those who are smaller or less able to defend themselves;
€ may believe that he or she is superior to other students, or blame others for being smaller, physically weaker, or different;
€ frequently fights with others as a way to assert dominance;
€ tends to have little empathy, wants power and control, and gets satisfaction from inflicting suffering.
Contrary to common belief, kids who bully are generally OK in the area of self-esteem, may be popular with teachers and classmates, and may also do well academically. And both boys and girls can be bullies, but with some differences. Bullying by girls tends to be teasing and social exclusion; with boys it's physical aggression. Boys tend to bully both boys and girls, while girls are more likely to victimize other girls and are more likely to bully in a group.
For a free copy of "Schoolwide Prevention of Bullying," write to Newspaper Column, Northwest Regional Educational Laboratory, 101 SW Main, Suite 500, Portland, OR 97204. It is also available on the Laboratory's web site at www.nwrel.org/request.
This column by Karen Lytle Blaha is provided as a public service by the Northwest Regional Educational Laboratory, a nonprofit institution working with schools and communities in Alaska, Idaho, Montana, Oregon, and Washington.