Life. It holds so many uncertainties. So many inequalities. So many injustices. As a human race we are a profound, complicated, and diverse people. Some are driven by power and riches. While others are driven by love and the need to help others. What makes us so different? What drives one person to be hateful and yet another to be understanding? There are so many factors that affect our behaviors and frame of mind. The majority of those influences take place during our childhood, when every decision, situation, reward, and consequence molds us into the adults we eventually become. With that being said, will childhood bullies develop into abusive adults? It would seem the most understandable outcome, since bullying is a child’s way of exuding power and control over their peers. So then, are we wrong to assume that a child displaying bullying behavior will only continue to intimidate and abuse others later in life?
Most children who display bully-like behaviors are experiencing abuse themselves . . .
According to a study performed and published to the Archives of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine, it has been confirmed that bullying as a child can be an early precursor to adult domestic partner violence perpetration, at least in men. The study was done in Boston and focused on men at three different community centers. The study suggests that men who exhibited frequent bullying in school were at a much higher risk for aggressive and abusive behavior toward intimate partners. Of course, this is only one study that took place among a group of men, confined to one area. However, this has been a question for years before any studies were recorded. Another study published in the September 2010 Psychiatric Quarterly states that adults with a history of bullying are 10 times more likely to lie than those with no history. The study also suggests that they have a higher likelihood of stealing and cheating. Concerns are, of course, not limited to men that were bullies. There are plenty of girls known to have bullied their classmates, as well.
So where do we begin? Is it possible to rectify the behavior of a bully in order to prevent abusive tendencies as an adult? We must first look at the environment of the child in question. Most children who display bully-like behaviors are experiencing abuse themselves, or they are witnessing Intimate Partner Violence (IPV) between their parents. Unfortunately, without just cause or evidence that those children are in danger, they cannot be removed from those situations. It’s up to us to help inform children, at their young and impressionable ages, of what abuse looks like and how it affects others. Parents that have children in school can look into what programs are implemented to prevent bullying. And if you don’t have a child in school, but you want to help raise awareness you can look into programs being used in your local school districts. Are the programs effective? What can the community do to help promote them? What programs are being applied that are also available to parents and community members? How can we better a child’s home environment? These are just a few small steps to get where we need to be. It takes action to get a reaction, and we want that reaction to be a decrease in the amount of bullying taking place among our children. In turn, we will see less IPV in the future.
I recently became aware that my 13-year-old son is dealing with bullies at his school. It is incredibly alarming to know that these boys are subjecting him to belittlement, humiliation, and rejection. The mental deterioration that takes place during abuse can be devastating. I have taken action and scheduled counseling sessions for my son. This allows him the ability to express his feelings to someone in order to gain an understanding that he is not worthless, dumb, or ugly as these kids make him feel. But what of the bullies? They also need guidance. They need an understanding that their behavior is not okay and could possibly lead to harsher behavior as an adult. Domestic violence awareness and our fight to end it starts with our children. It starts in our schools. It starts in our communities. It starts with our future generation. We will never see an end or decrease in abuse until we stop the behavior before it begins.
I urge you to stand up in your community. Make your voice heard. For the sake of our children, put an end to bullying. We need to make a difference, we need to fight to end abuse, and we need to start where it begins.
~ Christa Gayle