What It Is
Bullying behavior is usually a combination of: physical (hitting, kicking, and pushing,) verbal (threatening, taunting, and hate speech,) cyber (email) bullying, and social exclusion. Boys typically use physical means of bullying and girls rely on social exclusion and research suggests it is common to see bullying behaviors as early as age three.
According to Dr. Raymond H. Hamden, a clinical and forensic psychologist, bullying can emerge as a result of the following factors: a lack of warmth or attention at home, modeling of aggressive behavior at home, unsupportive peer
networks, poor supervision at school/home, poor academic performance, or anxiety about physical appearance. Other
individual factors include an active and impulsive personality, lack of empathy for others, and someone who craves attention and approval from others.
It is important to remember patterns of verbal and physical aggression are learned within the context of everyday social exchanges between family members, tells Dr. Hamden. “This learning occurs through parental modeling of overly
harsh, coercive, and inconsistent discipline tactics, including the use of physical punishment,” he says. This is illustrated by the development of a ‘coercive family process’ whereby a child’s initial non-compliance with parental demands may be met by more and more ‘extreme’ measures to achieve compliance. As the child’s resistance increases, there is a tendency for parents to use even more coercive strategies in an effort to gain compliance or just give in. Then the child brings these
maladaptive behaviors to school and often there begins a trajectory of school failure and teacher/peer rejection. Therefore, the child perceives aggression as an effective tactic for controlling others and reducing aversive events.
Who a Bully Targets
Dr. Hamden explains bullying occurs repeatedly over time and bullies target those people whom they perceive an imbalance of power or strength. Bullying can also be related to hostile acts against racial and ethnic minorities and persons with disabilities. Bullies frequently target people who are differentoverweight children, for example. Children labeled as behavior or emotionally disordered and students possessing apparent low self-esteem are also likely victims
of bullying -these conditions may be viewed by bullies as signs of weakness and precipitate verbal or physical abuse.
Treatment for Children Exhibiting Bullying Behaviors
Research has found Family Therapy is effective for treating boys with bullying behaviors, says Dr. Hamden. “Cognitive Behavior therapy (CBT) is also used with children exhibiting bullying behavior-it involves teaching youth about the thought-emotionbehavior link and working with them to modify their thinking patterns,” he says. This will lead to better, more adaptive behavior, especially in stressful situations. Using CBT, the therapist works to identify the underlying thinking that is causing unwanted or painful feelings and then helps the child replace this distorted thinking with thoughts that enable healthier, more appropriate behavior. “Play therapy is ideal for younger children and those unable to verbalize
their feelings and thoughts,” says Dr.