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Bullying Article #2: Who Becomes the Bully?

By Edited Nov 13, 2013 0 0

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It is a common myth that the bully has low self-esteem.  This was predicated from research that was done mostly out of the acts of aggressions of adults.  However, even that research has contradictions today.  In regards to bullying, most recent research shows the bully does not necessarily have low self-esteem.  Most bullies have shown to have a somewhat inflated sense of self-esteem.  On the face value, this does not seem to make sense. How can someone feel good about themselves and then berate someone else? Bullying is socially motivated and the bully is usually already at least somewhat popular among his or her peers, or at least have a few people that he is the “leader” or “potential leader.”  This bully loves the attention that he or she receives as a result of being the leader.  The act of bullying reinforces the status of the leader but generally does not increase it, because the bully is already the leader. 

 

Now there are instances where the leader is vying to become the “potential leader” as stated above.  This again does not purport the bully as having low self-esteem; it is likened to an animal vying to become the alpha male of the group.  In the animal kingdom the one attempting to become the alpha male is already proven to be very strong and wants more power.  This animal wants the social acceptance of that leader role, just as the bully wants the social acceptance of the leadership of the peer group.  In neither of these instances, does the weakness compared to the norm fall below average.  As a matter of fact, the two aggressors (bully and alpha male candidate) are at least recognized for attributes that could be perceived as strong, leadership potential.

 

So, the bully is looking not to increase his or her social acceptance but just to maintain.  However, there are some very negative influences that go into the formation of the bully. 

Research has shown there is not one type of parenting style that is influencing the potentiality of the child becoming a bully.  There are in fact two.

 

Parents that are role modeling aggressive behaviors at home in the form of direct aggression toward the child or others, or the indirect aggression of being too strict and not allowing the child to have some independence and be a part of decision making. These types of parents are sometimes called the drill sergeant parents.  They will dictate orders to the child without

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explanation as to why the rules or orders are needed.  These parents might say things like “as long as you are in my house you will follow my rules.”   These parents will use corporal punishment without first trying other options such as restriction of privileges or other consequences.  The drill sergeant parents are quick to act when negative behaviors occur but withhold praise when there are positive behaviors.  The parents see their role as to teach the children to follow the rules as they would with dogs.  I have actually seen some parents who treat their family pets with more dignity upon mistakes than they do their children. 

 

The second type of parents who parenting style influences the potential bully is the permissive type of parents.  This is the direct opposite of the drill sergeant parents.  They do not impose rules and they will allow the child to do whatever they want.  These parents might say “oh that is little Johnny just being a kid” when little Johnny just smack another child in the back of the head with a stick.  Yes, kids will hit other kids, but that does not mean the behavior should be tolerated.  The toleration of the parent when these behaviors occur sends the message the physical aggression is “okay” with the parent.  When these permissive parents allow the child to break rules in the home, it is also sending an unwanted message it is okay to break the rules anywhere else.  The child does not know or has been lead to believe that hitting others is okay, no matter the situation.  This can be applied to other forms of bullying such as social isolation, verbal aggression, or making fun of others. 

 

Now that we have discussed potential parenting styles that could influence the child to become a bully, I will say that even with the right parenting style, a child can still become a bully.  There is no single etiology of what creates the bullying mentality. 

 

There are some psychological traits and temperaments that seem to play a role in the formation of a bully.  Bullies are usually hot tempered and easily angered.  They see anyone who challenges their role as leader of a certain peer group as a threat.  They may start to ostracize the person who may, in fact, be part of that same group.  If this is the case, the bully usually will start with trying to build alliances within the group and then get a majority of the peers in the group to side with him or her.  The bully will also resort to creating lies.  They may try to place the potential victim in compromising situations to make the victim look bad or undeserving.  They may just come right out and confront the victim and this is usually followed by physical aggression. 

 

Research does show that most, but not all bullies, are bigger physically than their potential victims.  If they are not physically bigger, they already understand they have some advantage over the victim.  Bullies usually have good social intelligence and will not pick a fight with someone they know they will lose to in whatever choice of “battle” they chose.  That is to say, the bully will not fight a physically superior victim in a physical manner.  The bully will not chose to go to a “battle of wits” with a person much smarter than them.  The bully will not ostracize a person that already has a majority of support within a group.  They understand the game they can win and the games they cannot win and will use that to their advantage.    

 

The bully usually has a low tolerance for anyone who does not agree with them.  This is usually how the choosing of a victim is started.  The victim might openly disagree with the bully or the victim might verbalize a stance on a subject the bully has but does not socially let other know.  The victim, who comes out of he closet, that he is gay, will be picked on by the bully, who is trying to assert that he is very heterosexual and may be trying to impress the girls.  There is another common myth that no research has supported in regards to this scenario.  The bully is not trying to assert he is not gay by beating up the gay boy.  In other words, the bully is not trying to hide his gay tendencies, by beating up the gay boy.  I am not saying this could happen, but the research does not support this hypothesis. 

 

Bullies tend to have some mental health issues, but it is not specific to any mental health diagnosis.  For instance, a bully could be depressed, but that is not why he is the bully.  His depression could be related to the same situations that are causing the bullying, such as parents always fighting and become aggressive.  The bully may be depressed because of the way his parents are acting AND become a bully for that reason to but the depression and bullying are two separated issues. 

 

The bully may be anxious and insecure, but again, this is not the primary cause of the bullying.  The insecurity can be there or not and the risk of being a bully is still based on the socially motivated factors we talked about in the beginning of this article. 

 

The most common mental health issues associated with the bully is Oppositional Defiant Disorder, Conduct Disorder, and Antisocial Personality Disorder. 

 

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Oppositional Defiant Disorder is classified in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manuel of Mental Disorders (DSM) as a disorder usually first diagnosed in infancy, childhood, or adolescence.  Oppositional Defiant Disorder is characterized by the person often losing their temper; arguing with adults; refusing to comply with rules; deliberately annoying others; blaming others; easily annoyed; angry or resentful; and vindictive. 

 

Conduct Disorder is usually more serious than Oppositional Defiant Disorder whereas Conduct Disorder usually involves a persistent pattern of a blatant disregard for the basic rights of others.  Conduct Disorder usually involved aggression toward others (bullying); destruction of property; deceitfulness or theft; use of weapons; and serious violations of rules and laws. 

 

Antisocial Personality Disorder is basically the same as Conduct Disorder, but the person must be over the age of 18 and the behaviors are present since before age 15. The act of bullying itself would fall into one of these three categories. 

 

I hope this article has debunked some of the myths of who becomes a bully and provides, parents, teachers, school personnel, law enforcement, and peers of bullies the information to help decrease the amount of bullying that is going on around communities in the world.  I hope you will research more on your own about bullying and will help to fight this social problem going on.  I would like for you to continue to check back here often as I write more articles over this topic.  Please feel free to leave comments of ask questions.

Just Kidding
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Confessions of a Former Bully
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