Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Guest Post: The Relationship Between Family Dysfunction and Bullying

"Bully" - the Movie

With all of the attention that has been cast on cyber-bullying in recent years as social media continues to explode, as well as the release of the new movie Bully, the issue of bullying on the whole has once again made its way to the forefront of everyone’s minds. It’s certainly not a new topic, but one that surfaces in waves over time, ebbing and flowing in and out of the spotlight, and a topic that begs the question of what really factors in to turning a kid from being a normal child to a bully? There are several potential answers to this question, but dysfunction within the family is a great precursor, and these five examples show how:

1.      Violence at home equates to violence at school
When children are exposed to violence at a young age, whether the violence is directed toward them or towards another family member, they grow up with the preconceived notion that you are able to obtain what you want through violence. This can lead them to believe that the behavior is acceptable, and results in them performing the same actions on others that they’ve learned at home.

2.     Bullying is an outlet for emotional abuse
In addition to physical abuse in the home, emotional abuse is another stepping stone that guides children to adopting a bullying demeanor. When a parent is constantly condescending to their children and is continually battering them and making them feel worthless, kids learn to project this emotional distress on others. Through bullying their peers they are able to release pent up anger that they’re harboring from a less than functional home life, thus temporarily releasing them from the strains of emotional abuse.

3.     Bullying as a way to gain control over some aspect of their life
Being raised in a home where there is an apparent lack of self-control by family members can cause children to want to exercise control over something outside of their home life. Growing up my brother had a friend that was constantly trying to assert his dominance over the other boys his age. He would regularly throw toys at them and tell them how stupid they were. Eventually we found out that his father had zero self-control at home, and while he was obedient at home he projected these pent-up feelings on his friends that were more submissive. This desire to gain control can manifest itself in the form of bullying peers that are perceived as weaker and thus easily dominated.

4.     Bullying as a way to assert self esteem
Children who are raised in hostile and volatile home environments usually suffer from feelings of low self-worth and self-esteem, and can turn to bullying to feel as though they are powerful. These feelings of power can give a false sense of self confidence, and even arrogance, even though in reality bullying is usually a product of having no actual self-assurance. Most of the kids in schools that are known as bullies are deeply unhappy but refuse to admit that fact out loud and are too scared to turn to anyone for help. Instead they act overly confident to compensate for their negative feelings and self-image.

5.     Subliminal encouragement from parents
Parents can end up being subliminal encouragers to bullying as well, even though they may outwardly condemn the behavior. Any indication that the parent actually approves of the bullying, be it through a slip of a smile or a glimmer of approval on their face, can fuel a child to continue with the behavior because they feel they are making their parents proud in some way. The same boy mentioned earlier was never truly punished by his father for being a bully, and so he had no reason to stop with his behaviors. Instead his father silently asserted the behavior thus justifying the boy’s actions. [DA: see my post of February 11, 2011 about the role of Avenger].

There is no easy way to define why children turn to bullying. The causes behind it are complex and varied, and there are likely several underlying stressors that have led kids to turn to his behavior. All we, as the general public, can do is bring as much attention to this issue as possible and help to discourage kids from continuing to behave negatively towards their peers.

Author Bio
This guest post is by Christine Kane, a graduate of Communication and Journalism. She enjoys writing about a wide-variety of subjects including internet providers in my area for different blogs. She can be reached via email at: Christi.Kane00 @

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