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Section 6
Characteristics of Reactive Bullies in Schools

Question 6 | Test | Table of Contents

Also called reactive bullies or provocative victims, these children both bully others and are bullied themselves. Bully-victims are characterized by anxious and aggressive behavior (Olweus). Students indicate that these children both start fights and are picked on (Schwartz, Dodge, Pettit, & Bates). This group of children is often victimized, but also tends to tease or provoke bullies (Glew et al.). When bullies respond to this provocation, a physical fight may occur between the children. Bully-victims fight, but then claim self-defense (Beale). Although this has been described as a common scenario for bully-victim interactions, it is only one of a number of possible altercations that might characterize aggressive bully—victims. Another bully-victim scenario may be that of the humiliated school shooter who explodes in a burst of violence when he can no longer cope. Bully-victims can be difficult to identify. Olweus found that only a minority of victims could be identified as bully-victims. However, a U.S. study found that if a child is a victim, he or she has an equal chance of being a passive victim or a bully victim (Perry & Perry). Brockenbrough and colleagues surveyed 10,909 students in grades 7 through 11 and reported that approximately 30 percent of bullying victims had aggressive attitudes (that is, were bully-victims).They found that this group reported carrying weapons, using alcohol, and engaging in physical fights more often than nonaggressive victims or non-victims. Bully-victims are often hyperactive and have attention problems. In the classroom they tend to annoy other students and regularly cause aggravation (Carney & Merrell).

Bully-victims are often labeled as "hot-tempered" and may react with hostility toward students who accidentally provoke them (for example, bumping into the bully-victim may precipitate unwarranted retaliation, Pellegrini). Not surprising, these children usually elicit negative reactions from other children and are not socially accepted by their peers (Andreou). Furthermore, many teachers do not like bully-victims and may give the message to the class that these children deserve to be victims if they initiate negative interactions (McNamara & McNamara), Most bully-victims have low self-esteem, high neuroticism, and serious deficits in problem solving abilities (Andreou; Mynard &Joseph). One study found that bully-victims viewed themselves as more troublesome, less intellectual, less physically attractive, more anxious, less popular, and unhappier than pure bullies (O'Moore & Kirkham).

Family Background
Bully-victims usually come from troubled homes. These children frequently describe their parents as inconsistent (overprotective and neglectful) and sometimes abusive (Bowers, Smith, & Binney). Bully-victims claim that their families are low in warmth and lack parental management skills (Pellegrini).There is some evidence that the parents of bully-victims use power-assertive techniques with their children (Pellegrini). Research suggests that bully-victims learn hostile behaviors at home and use these schemas to view the rest of the world as antagonistic and untrustworthy (Bowers et al.).

Short and Long-Term Effects of Bullying and Victimization
Most bully-victims suffer fixing low self-esteem and have a negative self-image. The frequency of bullying and victimization episodes appears to predict feelings of self-worth (O'Moore and Kirkham). Among bully-victims in one study, 21.5 percent had oppositional-conduct disorder, 17.7 percent had depression, and 17.7 percent had attention-deficit disorder (Kumpulainen et al.). These bully victim rates for oppositional-conduct disorder and depression were higher than the rates for these disorders in children who were bullies only. Another study found that bully-victims, compared with bullies or victims, had the greatest risk of depressive symptoms, anxiety, psychosomatic symptoms, eating disorders, and co-occurring mental health problems (Kaltiala-Heino etal.).In addition, bully-victims were at significant risk of drinking and substance use as adolescents. Children who are bully-victims at younger ages not only have more psychiatric symptoms when compared with other children, but also have more psychiatric symptoms later in life (Kumpulainen & Rasanen). Because research on bully-victims is still in its infancy and this is a relatively small group of children, researchers are still trying to understand the full range of bully—victim behaviors and relationship dynamics.
- Smokowski PhD MSW, Paul R and Kelly Holland Kopasz MSW; Bulling in School: An Overview of Types, Effects, Family Characteristics, and Intervention Strategies; Children & Schools; Apr2005, Vol. 27 Issue 2, p101

Personal Reflection Exercise #5
The preceding section contained information about characteristics of reactive bullies in schools. Write three case study examples regarding how you might use the content of this section in your practice.

Peer-Reviewed Journal Article References:
Frey, K. S., Strong, Z. H., & Onyewuenyi, A. C. (2017). Individual and class norms differentially predict proactive and reactive aggression: A functional analysis. Journal of Educational Psychology, 109(2), 178–190.

Fung, A. L. C., Tsang, E. Y. H., Zhou, G., Low, A. Y. T., Ho, M. Y., & Lam, B. Y. H. (2019). Relationship between peer victimization and reactive–proactive aggression in school children. Psychology of Violence, 9(3), 350–358.

Teng, Z., Bear, G. G., Yang, C., Nie, Q., & Guo, C. (2020). Moral disengagement and bullying perpetration: A longitudinal study of the moderating effect of school climate. School Psychology, 35(1), 99–109.

According to research which disorders most commonly are seen in bully-victims? To select and enter your answer go to Test

Section 7
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