Why do people engage in bullying?
When you were in school, I am sure you had heard of many instances where some students picked on various victims and made their lives truly miserable. Getting bullied is almost like an experience that comes with school life for some people. Almost everyone has either experienced or observed the effects of bullying. In bullying relationships, one person does the aggressing, and the other is on the receiving end. While bullying has been studied primarily as something that occurs between children and teenagers, it is also common in other contexts too, such as workplaces and prisons. Several research findings have suggested that almost 50 percent of people in prison are exposed to one or more episodes of bullying each week. But why does bullying happens? Why a person choose their targets and terrorize them over and over again?
While there is no simple answer to this question, social psychologists have found two factors that often contribute to someone engage in bullying. First is the motive to exercise power over others and the motive to be part of a group that is “tough” and therefore high in status. In year 2000, a study was conducted where more than 2,000 children answered questions designed to measure their want to exercise power over others, their desire to be part of powerful groups, and their tendency to be unhappy or depressed. Results revealed some interesting gender differences. Among boys, both the desire to gain power and to be part of powerful groups were significantly related to bullying, while feeling depressed was not. For girls, all three motives were related to bullying. This suggests that for girls, aggressing against someone who can’t retaliate is like their coping to counteract the negative feelings of depression. While many other factors also play a role in bullying, the motives mentioned here have been found to be among the most important causes of such behavior.
Another thing you might wonder is if bullies are always bullies or victims are always victims. The truth is, that's not true, well not entirely atleast. Research studies have found that many people who are bullies in one context become victims in other situations, and vice versa. So there can be various combinations like those who appear to be pure bullies (people who are always and only bullies), pure victims (people who are always and only victims), and bully-victims (people who switch back and forth between these roles, depending on the context). One might wonder why someone becomes a bully in the first place and several psychologists have concluded through various studies that it's to take advantage of the long-lasting effects of exercising power. They manipulate people because they think that others are not to be trusted, so they feel it is totally justified to break their word and take unfair advantage of others. However, bully-victims engage in bullying to feel better about themselves. For example, a person who's a bully-victim will pick on someone in their class but at home, they might have a abusive household where they are the victims. These people have very low self-esteem and bullying others is their way to counteract their own negative feelings. In conclusion, both pure-bullies and bully-victims think showing high levels of aggression will bring them respect.
Bullying can truly leave life-long effects on the victims. Throughout the last decades, the statistics of people who committed suicide has increased drastically as they claimed that being bullied got too overwhelming for them. Right now, we are in a digital age where cyberbullying is also a very common issue and this issue needs to be talked more as the victims need to be provided support and care. In any setting, whether school or workplace, the employees in authority need to keep a regular check that no such thing is happening in their organisation, and if it is happening, strict measures need to be taken to protect the victim. Organizations should also work towards creating a safe and inclusive environment that welcomes everyone. Strict rules should be made like in school, hiring a separate staff to monitor students and effectively regulate them. Meetings should also be conducted every once in a while where employees or students can openly share their experiences.
When you are being bullied it can often feel difficult to talk about it. If you are also going through it, make sure that you have someone to reach out to, and share your experiences because when you hold it all in, it makes the situation even worse and talking does make it easier. Engaging in some coping techniques like projecting your emotions on art like painting, dancing, writing etc. can also be helpful.
"People who repeatedly attack your confidence and self-esteem are quite aware of your potential, even if you are not" —Wayne Gerard Trotman