Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:


Study of childhood bullying shifts focus to victims

Many wonder why bullies bully, but a new study looks at the other side of the equation: How do children respond to bullying and why? The answer, researchers say, may lead to more effective interventions to reduce the negative consequences – and perhaps even the frequency – of bullying.

The study appears in the journal Child Development.

"The main question we were interested in is how do children go about selecting strategies for dealing with harassment from their peers?" said University of Illinois psychology professor Karen Rudolph, who led the study. "And what we focused on was an understanding of the goals that kids develop in their social relationships."

Consciously or not, children tend to adopt one of three approaches, she said.

"Some are focused on developing their relationships. They want to improve their social skills. They want to learn how to make friends," she said.

Others are most interested in "demonstrating their competence," she said. They may try to demonstrate their competence by enhancing their status or seeking approval from their peers. "These are kids who say: 'I want to be cool. I want lots of kids to like me. I want to hang out with the popular kids.' "

Or they may try to demonstrate their competence by avoiding negative judgments. "These are the kids who say, 'I'm not going to do anything that's going to draw negative attention, that's going to make me look like a loser, that's going to embarrass me,'" Rudolph said.

A series of questionnaires administered to 373 second-graders and their teachers revealed how many of the children had been harassed (half of the children reported being the target of teasing, gossip, physical intimidation or worse at least a little bit of the time), how they responded to harassment and how each child generally thought about his or her peer relationships. The researchers then followed the children to determine if, and how, their social goals influenced how they dealt with harassment in the third grade.

They found, as they expected, that children who were most interested in developing relationships "had more positive perceptions of themselves and were more likely to say that they would cooperate and work to reduce conflict with other kids," Rudolph said. When other kids harassed them, these children were "more likely to engage in proactive strategies to solve the problem," she said. This might involve asking a teacher for advice, or getting emotional support. Students with these goals also were less likely to engage in other impulsive responses to harassment, Rudolph said.

Children who wanted to be perceived as "cool" or competent "were less likely to use those kinds of thoughtful, careful strategies" when dealing with harassment, Rudolph said. "And they were more likely to retaliate." These children also had more negative perceptions of their peers, Rudolph said.

Those who wanted to avoid negative judgments were less likely to retaliate against their peers. "But they were also more passive. They just ignored what happened," she said. This approach might be useful in some circumstances, particularly for boys who tend to be more physically aggressive and more likely to retaliate than girls, Rudolph said. But passive responses also may increase a bully's willingness to "up the ante," she said.

The researchers also discovered that children who were more bullied in the second grade "were more likely to freeze up and try to escape from the situation, or to ruminate about it, keep going over it in their mind, but not actually do something active about it," Rudolph said. They also "were less likely to show problem-solving type strategies" in the third grade, she said.

Understanding children's social goals may lead to better interventions to change the dynamic between a bully and his or her targets, Rudolph said.

"Just telling kids, 'this is what you should do' might not change their behaviors because their goals might be different from our goals," she said. "So I think understanding where the kid's coming from and why they're actually acting the way they do is going to be crucial for changing their behavior."

The National Institute of Mental Health and the University of Illinois Research Board supported this work.

Editor's notes: To reach Karen Rudolph, call 217- 333-8624; email

The paper, "Developing Relationships, Being Cool, and Not Looking Like a Loser: Social Goal Orientation Predicts Children's Responses to Peer Aggression," is available from the U. of I. News Bureau.

Diana Yates | EurekAlert!
Further information:

More articles from Studies and Analyses:

nachricht Diagnoses: When Are Several Opinions Better Than One?
19.07.2016 | Max-Planck-Institut für Bildungsforschung

nachricht High in calories and low in nutrients when adolescents share pictures of food online
07.04.2016 | University of Gothenburg

All articles from Studies and Analyses >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Etching Microstructures with Lasers

Ultrafast lasers have introduced new possibilities in engraving ultrafine structures, and scientists are now also investigating how to use them to etch microstructures into thin glass. There are possible applications in analytics (lab on a chip) and especially in electronics and the consumer sector, where great interest has been shown.

This new method was born of a surprising phenomenon: irradiating glass in a particular way with an ultrafast laser has the effect of making the glass up to a...

Im Focus: Light-driven atomic rotations excite magnetic waves

Terahertz excitation of selected crystal vibrations leads to an effective magnetic field that drives coherent spin motion

Controlling functional properties by light is one of the grand goals in modern condensed matter physics and materials science. A new study now demonstrates how...

Im Focus: New 3-D wiring technique brings scalable quantum computers closer to reality

Researchers from the Institute for Quantum Computing (IQC) at the University of Waterloo led the development of a new extensible wiring technique capable of controlling superconducting quantum bits, representing a significant step towards to the realization of a scalable quantum computer.

"The quantum socket is a wiring method that uses three-dimensional wires based on spring-loaded pins to address individual qubits," said Jeremy Béjanin, a PhD...

Im Focus: Scientists develop a semiconductor nanocomposite material that moves in response to light

In a paper in Scientific Reports, a research team at Worcester Polytechnic Institute describes a novel light-activated phenomenon that could become the basis for applications as diverse as microscopic robotic grippers and more efficient solar cells.

A research team at Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) has developed a revolutionary, light-activated semiconductor nanocomposite material that can be used...

Im Focus: Diamonds aren't forever: Sandia, Harvard team create first quantum computer bridge

By forcefully embedding two silicon atoms in a diamond matrix, Sandia researchers have demonstrated for the first time on a single chip all the components needed to create a quantum bridge to link quantum computers together.

"People have already built small quantum computers," says Sandia researcher Ryan Camacho. "Maybe the first useful one won't be a single giant quantum computer...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>



Event News

#IC2S2: When Social Science meets Computer Science - GESIS will host the IC2S2 conference 2017

14.10.2016 | Event News

Agricultural Trade Developments and Potentials in Central Asia and the South Caucasus

14.10.2016 | Event News

World Health Summit – Day Three: A Call to Action

12.10.2016 | Event News

Latest News

Greater Range and Longer Lifetime

26.10.2016 | Power and Electrical Engineering

VDI presents International Bionic Award of the Schauenburg Foundation

26.10.2016 | Awards Funding

3-D-printed magnets

26.10.2016 | Power and Electrical Engineering

More VideoLinks >>>