Academic journal article Professional School Counseling

The Bully as Victim: Understanding Bully Behaviors to Increase the Effectiveness of Interventions in the Bully-Victim Dyad

Academic journal article Professional School Counseling

The Bully as Victim: Understanding Bully Behaviors to Increase the Effectiveness of Interventions in the Bully-Victim Dyad

Article excerpt

Intervention strategies focusing on the targets of bully ing and teasing typically call for a preventive and proactive stance within the environments that allow bullying incidents to occur (Greenbaum, Turner, & Stephens, 1989; Olweus, 1991). Scant research exists designed to provide counseling and therapeutic services to those identified as the instigators of harassment and intimidation activities among their peers. The most common form of intervention in schools and society directed at children and adolescents labeled as bullies or as aggressive is punishment (Paulk, Swearer, Song, & Cary 1999; Sprott & Doob, 1998).

Interventions which ignore the symbiotic relationship between the bully and the victim are likely to be less effective than those interventions which involve both parties (McClellan, 1997). Roberts and Coursol (1996) advocated a four-step approach designed to interrupt further deterioration of bully-victim interaction. Likewise, Greenbaum et al. (1989), Lane (1989), McDermott (1983), and Olweus (1978, 1991) called for the inclusion of the victimizer in any effort to address the need of those victimized by bullying or teasing.

Interventions directed toward victims are at risk of failure without fully understanding the cognitive, affective, and behavioral motives of the perpetrators involved in bullying and teasing incidents. School counselors and other helping professionals desiring to be of maximum benefit in reducing the incidence of victimization by bullying in their respective institutions must be aware of specific factors impacting upon the individual identified as the bully.

Factors Useful In Conceptualizing Bully Ors

Certain definitions and factors must be employed to understand the full magnitude of those who engage in bullying behaviors including (a) operational definitions, (b) understanding how teasing and bullying are a part of normal childhood and adolescent development, (c) identifying behavioral components, (d) understanding the cognitive and affective psychology employed by the bully in rationalizing such behaviors, (e) a sensitization of how the home environment may encourage bullying behaviors, and (f) the role of learned aggression in promoting bullying behaviors throughout the lifespan.

Definitions of Bullying

Specific terminologies are useful in helping conceptualize the bully-victim relationship. Olweus (1992) described bullying as the exposure to long-term, repeated negative actions on the part of one or more persons. A negative action includes behaviors purposely designed to inflict, or attempt to inflict, injury or discomfort upon another (Olweus, 1992). Such a negative action is directed by an agent (the bully) toward a target (the intended victim; Shapiro, Baumeister, & Kessler, 1991) and may be physical, verbal, or psychological in nature. Hazler (1996b) included social exclusion as an additional example of bullying behaviors. Garrity, Jens, Porter, Sager, and Short-Camilli (1995), Garrity and Baris (1996) and Pepler and Sedighdellami (1998) noted that girls, in particular, are likely to use social alienation, verbal taunts, and aggression intended to damage a target's peer relationships, self-esteem, or social status as preferred methods of intimidation. Such behaviors are willful on the part of the agent (Hazler, 1996a; McClellan, 1997; Pellegrini & Bartini, 1999; Pepler & Sedighdellami, 1998) and designed to increase the status or power of the bully (McClellan, 1997). Pellegrini and Bartini noted that, in transition from elementary to middle schools, bullying is "one strategy used by youngsters to establish dominance" (p. 23) in new peer groups. A power inequity always exists (Askew, 1989; Smith & Thomson, 1991; Stephenson & Smith, 1989) between the bully and the target, one that is either real (as in strength or numbers) or perceptual (as in threats or intimidating actions; Lane, 1989). Synonyms for bullying include victimization, teasing, and harassment (Roberts & Coursol, 1996). …

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