Bullies & victims: Research on commonalities

By Anne Collier

What bullies and victims have in common, as found by a review of 50 studies on bullying just published in School Psychology, does not surprise but is important to note: their lack of skill in social problem-solving, MedicalNewsToday.com reports. In other words, what the research found is that children who lack such skills are more are more at risk of becoming bullies, victims, or both. Dr. Clayton Cook at Louisiana State University and co-authors at University of California, Riverside, looked at 153 studies of bullying by youth ranging in age from 3 to 18 and published in the US and Europe from the last 30 years. The difference between bullies and victims, they found, is that “bullies dislike school and tend to perform worse academically than those who later become victims,” according to Scientific American’s coverage of the meta-study. Here are the characteristics the study found: “A typical bully” has trouble resolving problems with others and academic troubles, negative attitudes about others and school, negatives feelings toward him/herself, negatively influenced by others, lives in a home environment “characterized by conflict and poor parenting.” Interestingly, “a typical victim” is “also likely to be aggressive” and have all the same characteristics but is rejected and isolated by peers (that last not so much a characteristic of bullies. “Bully-victims” (children who become both) apparently exhibit many of the same characteristics of both bullies and victims, except that they are “rejected and isolated by peers” like victims as well as “negatively influenced by peers” as are bullies. What I’m not seeing in the coverage of this study of traditional bullying is what I’m seeing risk-prevention practitioners beginning to say about cyberbullying: that sometimes so-called bullying or fighting is just conflicted, engaged in by plain-old kids who aren’t necessarily either bullies or victims. There just may be another category of aggression that we’re dealing with, online and offline: conflict. [See also “Bullying, cyberbullying & suicide: New study,” “Schools’ cyberbullying quandary,” and “Really sound cyberbullying advice for parents, schools.”]

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