A look at bullying

Do children who bully others deserve pity for a bad childhood? Probably not. The public school system's bully response policy may be unfair. Photo: AP

WASHINGTON, June 20, 2013 — Children being bullied in schools and in their social circles are an international source of concern with broad, short and long term consequences. Researchers at Duke Medicine published in the Journal of the American Medical Association the results of a 20-year study that victims of bullying suffer from anxiety disorders, depression and suicidal thoughts well into adulthood.

The popular perception that while bullying is hurtful, children will outgrow the fleeting moments of the experience. Nothing can be farther from the truth.

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Being the victim of bullying is demeaning, embarrassing and fosters a feeling of helplessness. The victim is terrified and if repeated, which it often is, feels a loss of safety, self-control and perpetual fear that pervades their emotional well-being for years.

Bullies often come from broken homes, overbearing parents and generally, an unhealthy home environment. Bullies seem to not suffer from the disorders of their victims but studies show they may be well on their way to Anti-Social Personality Disorder (ASPD), which is a serious, difficult to treat disorder that wreaks havoc on those with which they associate. They lack compassion, empathy and scruples and often become criminal.

Bullies seem resilient to the vicissitudes of life in terms of what is known as locus of control, the amount of control one has in their personal environment, and not susceptible to depression, anxiety or fear. This may be due to developing ASPD or a related disorder.

However, their victims may suffer more severe disorders of bullying that can lead to agoraphobia, fear of leaving the home, and have ten times more thoughts of suicide and related actions. The victims are 15 times more likely to suffer from a panic disorder and may suffer from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).

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Some schools across the country have initiated a no tolerance policy, where if a student is bullied and then retaliates, both participants receive the same consequences. Many feel this policy is not only unjust, but sends the wrong signals.

If one is under threat of consequence when defending themselves, this serves to teach a child to remain helpless, to not defend their sense of safety and fosters an atmosphere of additional fear of not only being bullied, but being punished for a natural, primitive limbic system response of self-defense. To ask a child to deliberately remain helpless, overcome a primitive response so early in life or go to the school authorities can bring on a host of other problems in a child’s emotional well-being.

Additionally, the bully can see the dual consequence approach as an opportunity to ratchet up poor behaviors by the additional taunting of the victim into fear of consequence. Bullies do not fear such consequences in the same manner as the victims.

Unchecked bully behavior extends into adulthood. Child bullies often become abusive adults not only to their children but their spouses and co-workers.

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There is a substantial difference between a schoolyard disagreement that turns to some fighting and outright bullying. Those who bully should suffer immediate, severe consequences to abate this behavior early on. To punish a child for self-defense is, in many eyes, a poor tactic.

Authors note: The author’s child was raised to defend himself from anyone attacking him regardless of policy. His son passed this permission on to his straight “A” and sports involved children who were bullied only once. When they acted in self- defense, the bully immediately discontinued his approach to them.

The one 12 year old grandchild was suspended for three days of school, as was the bully, for defending himself. The school was told the personal policy established by the parents will not be overridden by a senseless social policy of helpless retreat.

Paul Mountoy is a Virginia based writer and a member of the American Psychological Association and the Association for Psychological Science.

This article is the copyrighted property of the writer and Communities @ WashingtonTimes.com. Written permission must be obtained before reprint in online or print media. REPRINTING TWTC CONTENT WITHOUT PERMISSION AND/OR PAYMENT IS THEFT AND PUNISHABLE BY LAW.

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