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Bullying in order to win friends - New research shows that immigrant boys in Norway bully because they want to belong to a group

Immigrant boys in Norway therefore seem to have a different motive for bullying than ethnic Norwegian boys have.

- While ethnic Norwegian boys often bully because they want to have power over their victims, immigrant boys bully because have a need for affiliation, says assistant professor Hildegunn Fandrem at the Center for Behavioral Research at the University of Stavanger, Norway.

According to Fandrem, research into bullying has so far not been interested in the reasons different groups may have for bullying.

- Earlier research shows that the best explanation for bullying is that the bully wants to gain power over the victim and affiliate with the other individuals who bully, she says and adds:

- When we separate the immigrant boys from the whole group, my data show that power motivated aggression is not an adequate explanation for bullying among this group.

Fandrem is currently looking at social and emotional problems among youths with a multicultural background in her doctoral project.

- There are two main categories of aggressive behavior. Some individuals become aggressive from anger and frustration when they don’t have their way, for example when they lose a game, Fandrem says.

- This is reactive aggressiveness. This form of aggressiveness does not particularly explain bullying. The form of aggressiveness which best explains bullying is called proactive aggressiveness. This means that aggression can be used to obtain power. The bully is stimulated by seeing others become frightened, Fandrem says, and adds that aggression is also used to achieve acceptance by a group or to connect with others.

- A common enemy may forge strong ties. The bullies may experience “better” friendship when they leave somebody out in the cold or when they commit actions they know are wrong, she says.

To find out who the immigrant boys want to affiliate with, Fandrem has started a new investigation. She is anxious to find out whether the immigrant boys’ motivation for bullying is part of an integration or a separation strategy.

- When we have the answer to the question who the young immigrants want to belong to, we will know more about what we have to do in order to give them good experiences of belonging. We may then compensate for and prevent the way they resort to unwanted strategies like bullying, she says.

Silje Stangeland | alfa
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