Academic journal article Education

No Vacation from Bullying: A Summer Camp Intervention Pilot Study

Academic journal article Education

No Vacation from Bullying: A Summer Camp Intervention Pilot Study

Article excerpt

Bullying behavior, an outgrowth of aggressive behavior in general (Olweus, 1993), is a complicated problem. Common definitions of bullying involve the following concepts: the behavior is intentional, there is a mismatch in terms of social status and/or physical strength between bully and victim, and the physical and/or social intimidation occurs repeatedly over time (e.g., Olweus & Limber, 2002). Boys tend to engage in more physically aggressive bullying than girls, while girls tend to engage in more relationally aggressive bullying than boys (e.g., Crick & Grotpeter, 1995; Olweus, 1997); these sex-dependent differences in aggressive behavior are present even in early childhood (e.g., Olweus, 1997; Ostrov & Crick, 2007).

Bullying has received increasing attention in the professional literature over the past decade or so in the United States, and has been recently acknowledged as a pressing problem by the mass media, the federal government's National School Safety Center (NSSC, 1995), and the committee which authored the more recent Safe School Initiative (Vossekuil, Fein, Reddy, Borum, & Modzeleski, 2002). Incidence and prevalence rates of bullying are basically consistent across urban, suburban and rural settings in the United States and abroad; typically cited ranges estimate that each year, between 8% and 15% of the general school population has been involved in bullying on a regular basis (as the bully, victim, or both) (e.g., Hazler, 1996; Olweus, 1997; Nansel, Overpeck, Pilla, Ruan, Simons-Morton, & Scheidt, 2001). Bullying behavior generally shows a slow, steady upward trend through elementary school, peaks during late elementary through middle school/junior high years (i.e., ages 9-15), and decreases markedly in high school (Hazier, 1996).

In some subsets of the general school population, the incidence of bullying is quite high. In one study, roughly 30% of over 15,000 students in grades 6-10 reported frequent involvement in bullying; 13% were involved as bullies, 10.6% were involved as victims, and 6% were involved as bully-victims (Nansel et al., 2001). Extensive data indicate significant, long-term mental health difficulties for bullies, victims and bully-victims as a result of bullying (e.g., Carney, 2000; National School Safety Center, 1995; Olweus, 1997; Swearer, Song, Cary, Eagle, & Mickelson, 2001; Vossekuil et al., 2002).

Far from being a problem endemic to an individual bully or bully-victim dyad, investigations of bullying behavior implicate social-ecological phenomena which may facilitate bullies' aggressive behaviors (e.g., Henry, Guerra, Huesmann, Tolan, VanAcker, & Eron, 2000; Huesmann, 1994; Pellegrini, 2002; Pellegrini, Bartini, & Brooks, 1999; Sutton & Smith, 1999; Swearer & Doll, 2001), and may also facilitate victimization (e.g., NSSC, 1995; Roth, Coles, & Heimberg, 2002).

Effects of Bullying

Long-term follow up studies conducted with adults who were childhood victims of bullying show that social and/or sexual difficulties persisted well beyond when the bullying stopped (e.g., Hazler, 1996; Olweus, 1997). Victims of bullying often fear school and are at increased risk of truancy or dropping out (Berthold & Hoover, 2000). Victims are far more likely than non-bullied students to bring weapons to school to protect themselves. In rare instances, victims have carried out retribution, either while still in school or even years after the bullying occurred (Vossekuil et al., 2002). In general, however, victims show average- to below-average rates of adult criminal behavior, but remain at much higher risk for suicide, even into adulthood (e.g., Carney & Merrell, 2001).

There are also negative consequences for bullies as they age. A large-scale follow-up investigation conducted by the National School Safety Center (NSSC) in 1995 showed several disturbing trends. As children who engaged in bullying got older, their risk for academic underachievement and dropping out of school increased. …

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