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Tuesday, October 26, 2010

The New Bully Survey

Half of U.S. high schoolers say they have bullied or teased someone at least once in the past year, and nearly half say they have been bullied in that time, one of the largest studies ever on bullying finds. The study,  released today, surveyed 43,321 teens ages 15 to 18, from 78 public and 22 private schools. It finds 50% said they had "bullied, teased or taunted someone at least once," and 47% had been "bullied, teased or taunted in a way that seriously upset me at least once."
Sharon Jayson reports these are among the findings from the Ethics of American Youth Survey by the Josephson Institute of Ethics, a non-profit based in Los Angeles that has surveyed teens on conduct and behavior every two years since 1992. This, however, is the group's first report on bullying. (Sharon Jayson, "Bullying Survey: Most Teens Have Hit Someone Out of Anger," USA Today, October 26 2010)
For those who study bullying, the data are "absolutely surprising and appalling," says Darcia Narvaez, associate professor of psychology at the University of Notre Dame, whose work focuses on young people's moral and character development.

Narvaez  points at child-rearing practices to find the cause. Her research has found that children today often don't get enough "positive touch" in the form of skin-to-skin contact, which she says promotes well-being, a moral sense and more empathy. She says parents are holding their kids less than in the past and instead rely more on strollers and carriers.

Narvaez offers some examples of this "positive touch": (Susan Guibert, "Psychologist Darcia Narvaez Studies Parenting Practices," University of Notre Dame: College of Arts and Letters, September 17 2010)

* Free play with multi-age playmates
* Natural childbirth
* Multiple adult caregivers
* Breastfeeding
* Prompt response to baby’s fusses and cries

Sally Kuykendall, assistant professor of health services at Saint Joseph's University in Philadelphia, has studied bullying for almost a decade. She says kids are getting the message that "if you have a problem, you deal with it through violence. When children are exposed to violence, they're going to think that's the way to handle problems." She believes programs such as scared straight, boot camps, and DARE do not work while programs such as Big Brothers/ Big Sisters (mentoring), visiting nurses (parenting education), Life Skills Training (substance abuse prevention), and early childhood education are more effective. ("Sally Kuykendall (Black), Ph.D", Saint Joseph's University, 2010) 

Additional Reasons For Bullying Behavior:
  • Lack of communication skills;
  • Desire for power;
  • Attempts at increasing self concept;
  • Desire for self-aggrandizement;
  • Scapegoating;
  • Vindictiveness;
  • Over-valuing of compliance, control and hierarchy;
  • Distrust of other people.
Recent research indicates that bullying has two main causes:
  • The bully has difficulty with social skills, is unable to make friends easily, and thus does not know better ways to relate to others;
  • Bullying is used to enhance self-concept which is defined as the way you feel about yourself. Well-balanced people enhance the way they feel about themselves through their achievements, activities and occupations. Bullies, however, have a distorted sense of how to increase their self-concept, and so engage in anti-social activities. Bullying makes them feel good about themselves and, mistakenly, they believe that engaging in it will make other people see them as powerful.
Surveys also show:
  • That about 80% of people express contempt for bullying;
  • But that people who have been identified as bullies believe that their bullying behavior causes them to be perceived as admirable.
(James Cook University, studies 1995-2010, January 20 2010)

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