Where behavioral science and humanism get out of the ivory tower, and into the world.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Bullies and their victims

Ohh, I love Science daily. It’s like reader’s digest for PsycInfo (I wish I still had access to that, anyone who hooks me up will get a plate of cookies!) …. Anyway… I really like the article they just covered on the correlations between skill sets and bully/victim behavior. Dr. Clayton Cook of LSU did a meta-study on 153 different studies that examined which traits, or lack there of, went a long being a bully or a victim with interesting results. It seems that the main commonalities are that both groups have poor social-problem resolution skills, perform poorly in school, experience social isolation, have negative views of themselves and others, and possibly have challenging homes lives.

A lot of this may fall into a “chicken or the egg” question, but it I think it highlights very important information in how to handle it. Like most American “corrections” policy, a lot of anti-bullying policy focuses on chastisement and isolation of the perpetrator. Nietzsche would probably argue that this mostly does little more than let the victims feel a little schadenfreude (I think spreading activation theory clicked my brain over into German mode…). Instead of suspending a person, which would further isolate them and probably cause more challenges for them in school, wouldn’t it make more sense to view behaviors on both ends as an expression of need? Working on academic and social skill building, hopefully early on, would probably do much for everyone involved. Maybe I’ve read too much Buddhism, but it really does seem that all human cruelty springs from a lacking or pain in one form or another. Solving that seems to me to be the best way to end the cruelties.

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