With all the talk about bullying in the media (most recently spawned by the film ‘Bully’) do we really know what it is?
Violence Prevention Works defines bullying as aggressive behavior that is intentional and that involves an imbalance of power. Most often repeated over time. Bullying can manifest in physical violence (the most obvious acts of bullying), verbal attacks, and non-verbal behavior (i.e. exclusion from activities, being the last student chosen for a sports team at recess) which I consider acts of relational aggression.
All types of bullying are detrimental to a developing child’s sense of self-worth. We know that children who are victims of bullying are:
- More likely to do poorly in school.
- More likely to have or develop mental health conditions such as depression and anxiety.
- More likely to develop substance abuse issues.
- More likely to bully themselves.
A subcategory of bullying that I often discuss with students, faculty and parents is the aforementioned relational aggression. Relational aggression is conceptualized as behaviors that harm others by damaging, threatening to damage, manipulating one’s relationships with his/her peers, or by injuring one’s feelings of social acceptance. For purposes of this blog post, when I refer to bullying, I am discussing both bullying and relational aggression.