Healthcare Training Institute - Quality Education since 1979
CE for Psychologist, Social Worker, Counselor, & MFT!!
Social Interaction of Bullies and Victims
Effects of Context on Interactions of Bullies and Victims
Effects of Partner on Interactions of Bullies and Victims
Social Interaction of Bullies and Victims
The hypothesis that bullies would demonstrate higher levels of aggressive behavior was not supported. Interestingly, the frequency of aggressive behavior was generally low in both games and in relation to both partners. One might think that structured settings like the games used in this study can reduce the rate of aggressive exchanges among children. This result has relevant implications in terms of intervention and suggests that a large number of aggressive episodes take place during informal activities or during recess (Genta et al., 1996; Whitney & Smith, 1993). Further studies comparing structured tasks with informal settings may provide support for this result.
Effects of Context on Bullies' and Victims' Interactions
During the competitive game, behaviors such as play activity and verbal comments on the game occurred more frequently, whereas collaboration and regulation occurred less frequently. The structure of the competitive setting was regulated by game rules and, although the goal was interdependent, the game did not demand a high level of interaction between the two partners. The differences between the two settings confirm the roles of physical and social constraints imposed on behavior by the settings in which interaction takes' place. Studies on school bullying (Genta et al., 1996; Olweus, 1993a; Whitney & Smith, 1993) have documented that most bullying occurs on the playground. In the school context, we can hypothesize that the constraints and the opportunities for aggressive behavior in the classroom differ from those on the playground. These constraints may explain the observed differences across settings (playground vs. class). However, as suggested by the present study, differences may exist between cooperative and interdependent tasks compared with more individual and parallel activities. In addition, the low level of aggression we found in both games can partly reduce the validity of the study, because our aim was to observe aggressive and victimized children. At the same time, a context eliciting too high a level of aggression can create ethical problems for researchers. In relation to this issue, our decisions on the use of contrived play groups for this study took account primarily of participants' rights.
Effects of the Partner on Bullies and Victims' Interactions
In the structured context used in this study, bullies showed a bossy style toward the partner's behavior, possibly aimed at status seeking and dominance, often regulating and opposing the other's initiative. Victims, on the other hand, complied with the partner and used a more submissive style of interaction. These behavioral characteristics of the two partners are reinforced when bullies and victims interact.
Previous studies have shown that aggressive children place more value than nonaggressive children on achieving control over their victims (Boldizar et al., 1989). Thus, through submission, the victimized child reinforces the aggressor's motivation. The victim's submission and the aggressor's success, in turn, serve to increase the chances of the victim's being repeatedly abused (Pierce & Cohen, 1995). In the present study, a dynamic of dominance-submission appeared to develop between the bully-victim partners, specifically during the cooperative game when interdependence between the two partners was required. Interaction with a control partner, on the other hand, resulted in a scenario in which bullies and victims seemed more able to cooperate with the partner, by opposing the partner's initiatives less frequently (bullies) and showing a tendency to affirm themselves in a positive way by asking the partner for help and explanations (victims). The probability that a negative dynamic between bullies and victims will lead to negative and stable patterns of interaction was confirmed also by the comparison between reciprocal- and nonreciprocal-nominations dyads. All of the dyads observed in this study were in the same classes and were familiar with each other, but those who recognized reciprocally the role of the partner showed higher levels of dominant-submissive behaviors. In the dynamic between bullies and victims, a vicious cycle seems to occur. Bullies and victims collude in their complementary behaviors, and the dynamic within the dyad reinforces them to repeat these styles of interaction. This behavior, in turn, exposes bullies to more opportunities for using violent and antisocial behavior (Loeber & Hay, 1997; Olweus, 1979) and victims to the risk of stable victimization, fear, anxiety, loss of self-esteem, and depression (Kochenderfer & Ladd, 1997). A way to interrupt this vicious cycle may be to facilitate interaction with a control partner who is external to the problem and able to elicit more positive behaviors from both bullies and victims.
Finally, the strengths and limitations of this study deserve attention. A strength is the observational approach and the use of contrived settings to observe bullies and victims in interaction. The findings support the idea that there are both individual and contextual characteristics that can explain the dynamic between bullies and victims. On a theoretical level, the findings underline the need to consider the individual as well as the social context of bullying in terms of environmental and social context and type of partner (Sutton, Smith, & Swettenham, 1998). On a practical level, there are direct implications for interventions. Task characteristics and types of partner seem to be relevant in planning and implementing interventions in schools. More specifically, insights into the dynamics between bullies and victims may yield more innovative intervention strategies with both bullies and victims. For example, an approach focused on individual children can give results that may not be maintained when bullies and victims interact together or are in groups in which the level of interdependence among the partners is high. On the other hand, results of studies that evaluated how effective anti-bullying interventions can be have revealed that the most promising interventions are those based on relational and systemic approaches (Olweus, 1993a; Smith & Sharp, 1994). A focus on the social contexts and the cultural climate leading to bullying and victimization is necessary for any intervention aimed at reducing the problem. Limits of the present study are the small sample size and the lack of control for gender effects. Thus, the results of the present investigation can be considered to be preliminary, resulting from a direct observational approach. Further studies may contribute by replicating the data and disentangling the role of gender from bully--victim status. We have made a first attempt to control for gender effects with a subsample of 4 boys from the present study. That analysis revealed the expected trend we had found for the whole sample.
- Menesini, E., Melan, E., & Pignatti, B. (2000). Interactional Styles of Bullies and Victims Observed in a Competitive and a Cooperative Setting. The Journal of Genetic Psychology, 161(3), 261-281. doi:10.1080/00221320009596710
The box directly below contains references for the above article.
Personal Reflection Exercise #12
The preceding section contained information regarding bullying behavior in cooperative vs. competitive tasks. Write three case study examples regarding how you might use the content of this section in your practice.