TUESDAY, August 30, 2022 (HealthDay News) — The most common forms of bullying are not physical acts such as pushing or kicking, nor verbal threats or derogatory remarks. The top tactic of distant bullies is social exclusion.
Also known as “relational aggression,” this involves excluding peers from group activities and spreading false rumors about them. And the research underscores the damage done by this behavior.
“When a child is excluded from social activities by their peers at school, the consequences for that child are just as detrimental, both in the short and long term, as if they were kicked, punched, or punched every day,” said University researcher Chad Rose of Missouri in Columbia: “So this study sheds light on the social exclusion that youth often face.”
Rose is the director of the Mizzou Ed Bully Prevention Lab, which aims to reduce school bullying.
In a recently published study in Preventing school failure: alternative education for children and young people , Rose and his colleagues analyzed a survey conducted in 26 middle and high schools in five school districts in the southeastern United States. More than 14,000 students were asked whether they agreed or disagreed with statements that reflected their pro-bullying attitudes, perceived popularity, and relationship aggression.
Among the statements:
The results were revealing.
“Children who perceive themselves as socially dominant or popular support bullying attitudes, but they do not perceive themselves as relationship aggressive,” Rose said of the results. “There was another group that did not perceive themselves as socially dominant or popular, but they did advocate bullying-friendly attitudes and engaged in relational aggression.”
So, he said, the first group found bullying okay but didn’t see themselves as involved, even when they actually excluded others. The group that admitted to avoiding others may have done so to climb the social hierarchy.
A third group of survey participants, known as non-aggressors or bystanders, reported low levels of relational aggression as well as low levels of pro-bullying attitudes.
“The interesting thing about bystanders is that they often perpetuate bullying, which means they serve as social reinforcers and are close by when it happens,” Rose said in a university press release.
“We teach the famous slogan ‘See something, say something’, but in practice it’s difficult for children to intervene quickly and assess conflicts – even for adults. When we see two children in a physical fight, we feel compelled to stop it. But when we see children being excluded from their peers, adults don’t always seem to see it as equally harmful, and that’s the scary part,” he added.
“When kids are in school, equality is often celebrated, but when kids are growing up, individuality is what sets us apart and sets us apart in our job and in life,” Rose said. “Individuality should be woven into some of the messages we send out as adults in our schools, in our families and in our neighborhoods.”
Incorporating social communication skills into students’ daily curriculum is another suggestion teachers can immediately adopt, Rose says.
“In addition to setting academic goals for group projects, teachers can monitor how well students invite the ideas of others through positive, encouraging conversations,” he said. “Teachers should give special credit when they see respectful and inclusive behavior in practice, because teaching and strengthening these skills is just as important as teaching math, science and history.”
Children may be more inclined to act aggressively if they’re not taught how to effectively express their thoughts, wants, and needs, Rose added. Not every child needs to be a friend, but it’s important to treat everyone with respect.
“Bullying doesn’t start or end with the school bells, it’s a community issue,” Rose said. “I think as adults we need to be more aware of what we teach our children in terms of our social interactions as schools are a reflection of our communities.”
The US Department of Health and Human Services has more on bullying.
SOURCE: University of Missouri-Columbia, press release, August 26, 2022