This material on bullying is adapted from the book
Bullying at School, by Dan Olweus.
Dan Olweus (Bullying At School: What We Know And What We
Can Do About It, Oxford,U.K.:Blackwell, 1993) conducted
studies with hundreds of thousands of Norwegian and Swedish
schoolchildren, some with long-term follow ups, and reviewed
international literature. Here is a summary:
children repeatedly victimized by bullies are anxious,
insecure, lonely, abandoned, and do not have a single good
friend. See self as unattractive and stupid. Generally
have negative attitude to violence. Temperamentally
sensitive. Signal to others that they are insecure and
worthless individuals who will not retaliate if they are
attacked or insulted.
A smaller number of victims are provocative, aggressive,
have poor concentration, irritate others and increase
tension around them. Disliked by class and teacher.
Physical strength, popularity, and having a friend.
Generally aggressive, have positive attitude towards
violence, impulsive, need to dominate others, little empathy
with victims, positive view of self. Physically
Dependent and insecure, poor social skills, see aggression
modeled by someone seen as tough and strong, see bully's
behavior rewarded by lack of punishment.
maternal lack of warmth, lack of supervision, no limits on
aggressiveness, power assertive discipline (physical
punishment and violent outbursts); child is temperamentally
active and hot-headed.
A TYPICAL SCENARIO
Among the boys in a class, there are normally....many
slight aggressive interactions, partly for fun, as a form of
self-assertion and for the testing out of strength
relations....If there is a potential bully (or
several)....the interactions will be rougher, more vehement
and violent.... Even minor adversities and frustrations lead
to intense reactions....due to the physical strength of the
bully, his aggressive attacks are often unpleasant and
painful to others. Even if he prefers to attack the weakest
boys, whom he is certain of defeating, he is also not afraid
of starting fights with other boys....he feels strong and
If there is a potential passive whipping boy (victim) in
the class--anxious, insecure, fearful of being assertive and
aggressive, and often physically weak as well--he will soon
be discovered by the bully....he feels rather alone and
isolated....ideal target....give the bully a marked feeling
of superiority and supremacy....bully wants to have others
join him, and he soon induces his closest friends to pick on
the whipping boy. There is always something in the looks,
clothing, or manners...that can be attacked....adults at
school frequently do not pay attention to the fuss or...let
the boys themselves settle the conflicts. The whipping boy
does not seem to say much to his parents....other boys are
also active in harassing...he is a safe target....almost
deserves a beating...becomes more and more isolated among
his peers. (p. 37-39).
Bullying is not a bigger problem in urban areas than
in rural schools.
more frequent in large schools or schools with large class
a lower incidence in one-room schoolhouses with a “family
evidence that bullying behavior by boys is caused by poor
grades or school failures (bullies and victims both earn
lower than average marks, especially grades 7-12.)
Recent study in
Netherlands showed no greater level of victimization
for Moroccan, Turkish or Surinamese immigrants than for
native Dutch boys same age (12-17).
evidence that bullies have underlying low self esteem. They
actually have unusually little anxiety and insecurity...
evidence that bullies are really cowards who don't want to
fight and thus only intimidate little or weak kids.
Parents of bullies can:
take it seriously, have consistent rules and limits and
consequences, praise effort and change, increase supervision
and monitoring, increase positive activities.
of victims can:
coordinate with teacher, encourage child generally, address
overall anxiety/insecurity, develop talents, engage in
physical training and sports, help find and keep a friend,
be less overprotective, increase opportunities for contact;
for provocative victims parents can help with child’s social
skills, increase self-confidence, address hyperactivity and