In popular culture, bullying is frequently shown as either physical aggression–such as pushing and kicking–or verbal aggression–such as making threatening statements and disparaging remarks.
However, a recent study from the University of Missouri shows how “relational aggression,” the most prevalent type of bullying that involves socially excluding friends from group activities and spreading false stories, has a negative social and emotional impact on victims.
According to prior research, a child’s short- and long-term results when they are excluded from social activities by their peers at school will be just as negative as if they were kicked, punched, or slapped every day. The social exclusion that young people frequently experience is thus illuminated by this study, according to Chad Rose, an associate professor in the MU College of Education and Human Development and the head of the Mizzou Ed Bully Prevention Lab.
Rose examined survey findings that were part of a more extensive examination of the school climate that was carried out in 26 middle and high schools across five school districts in the southeast United States. More than 14,000 adolescents were asked to rate phrases that reflected pro-bullying attitudes, perceived popularity, and relational aggressiveness as either agreeing or disagreeing.
A few examples of poll responses were, “A little teasing never hurt anyone,” As long as it doesn’t involve me, I don’t care what the kids think of me. I typically take the lead in making decisions for my group of friends, and when I’m angry, I’ll stop allowing someone to hang out with us.
“What we found is kids that perceive themselves as socially dominant or popular endorse pro-bullying attitudes, yet they don’t perceive themselves as engaging in relational aggression,” Rose said. “There was another group that did not perceive themselves as socially dominant or popular but endorsed pro-bullying attitudes and engaged in relational aggression. So, the first group thought bullying was OK but did not see themselves as engaging in it even if they actually were excluding others. While the second group that admitted to engaging in relational aggression may have been excluding others as an attempt to jockey for the position of being more socially dominant and climb the social hierarchy.”
Rose noted that the third group of respondents, known as non-aggressors or bystanders, indicated low levels of relational aggression as well as low levels of pro-bullying attitudes.
The intriguing thing about spectators is that they frequently encourage bullying by acting as social reinforcers and being present when it occurs, according to Rose. “We encourage students to use the renowned slogan “See something, say something,” but in reality, even adults find it challenging to step in and promptly resolve disagreements. We felt obligated to break up a physical altercation between two children. The frightening issue is that adults don’t often seem to regard it as equally destructive when we observe children being excluded by their classmates.
By valuing each student’s uniqueness, educators, parents, and community members can all help at-risk youngsters, according to Rose.
When children are young, uniformity is frequently praised, but as they mature into adults, originality is what helps us stand out and succeed in both our careers and personal lives, according to Rose. “Some of the messages we as adults give in our schools, homes, and neighbourhoods should be weaved with individuality.”
Incorporating social communication skills into the everyday curriculum is another useful suggestion that instructors may start using right away, according to Rose.
“Teachers can assess how well the kids are inviting the input of others’ ideas through pleasant, supportive interactions, in addition to creating academic objectives for group projects,” Rose added. Teachers should specifically commend students when they exhibit inclusive and polite behaviour since these teachings are just as crucial as those in math, science, and history.
Rose has been studying bullying for 17 years. He originally became interested in the subject while working with at-risk high school special education students who were acting violently or aggressively in his first job out of college.
I decided I didn’t only want to deal with the most academically bright and well-behaved students; I wanted to help every kid that came through the door, especially those who have been traditionally marginalized, Rose said. “I had kids coming back to school from juvenile prison institutions,” she said. “Instead of just detaining or dismissing students from school, I concentrated on assisting them in developing skills and developing treatments that place an emphasis on social communication, respect, and empathy.”
Children may be more prone to act aggressively if they aren’t taught how to successfully express their views, wants, and needs, according to Rose. She also stressed the need to treat everyone with respect, even if they aren’t all close friends.
Bullying is a community problem, not something that starts or ends with the school bell, according to Rose. “I believe that since schools are a reflection of our communities, as adults we need to be more conscious of what we are teaching our children in terms of how we interact socially.”
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