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In the last section, we discussed four facets of the effects of bullying on students. These four facets are, short term effects on the victim, long term effects on the victim, short term effects on the bully, and long term effects on the bully.
In this section... we will discuss helping parents understand the nature of the bullying a student is experiencing by discussing five types of bullying victims. These five types of victims are the one dimensional victim, the physically challenged victim, the passive loner victim, the aggressive loner victim, and the accidental victim.
I have observed in my practice that before a parent can offer his or her child the help he or she needs, it is helpful for the parent to figure out exactly what kind of bullying the child is faced with. Of course, not all bullying looks the same, but I find it helpful to describe five basic types of bullying victims with parents, to help the parents identify which most closely resembles the student’s troubles.
Five Types of Victims
♦ 1. The One-Dimensional Victim
A first type of bullying victim is the one-dimensional victim. Clearly, the one-dimensional victim possess one characteristic that results in her or him being singled out. Examples of the one dimensional victim include the girl who develops earlier than her classmates, boys who are smaller than most of their classmates, and students who excel academically. The research on the issue of one dimensional victims is divided.
Research by the experts indicates that it is not these features alone, but how the child responds to the bullying, that is responsible for bullying. However, the students themselves often feel that just one trait can give bullies endless and painful ammunition. I encourage parents to consider if their child has one characteristic that makes him or her different.
I also find it useful to remind parents that this trait may not be negative, as in the case of academic excellence. The trait may also seem insignificant to parents, such as wearing glasses.
♦ 2. The Physically Challenged Victim
A second type of bullying victim is the physically challenged victim. Sadly, a student with a physical disability or a condition such as Tourette’s syndrome are often targets of ridicule, as their condition makes them different. Greg, 35, was the father of Danny, an 11-year old with complex partial seizures.
Danny’s condition manifested only when he became overexcited, overanxious, or physically overworked. Greg stated, "I always thought Danny was handling things well. But recently Danny told me that in gym class, he sometimes has partial seizures or anxiety from the activity. Sometimes, he has to sit out on games, and he gets picked on a lot for it. Lately he’s been lashing out verbally and even physically at the bullies. That’s not like him at all! I worry he’ll trigger a bad physical seizure by fighting back like that!" Obviously, students like Danny are under a double dose of stress, from the condition and from the ridicule.
♦ Technique: Starve the Bully
I recommended that Greg introduce Danny to the Starve the Bully technique. I stated to Greg, "you might try explaining to Danny that a bully is ‘hungry’, and feeds off of responses like crying, cowering, falling apart, or fighting back. When Danny refuses to deliver these, the bully gets no satisfaction, and Danny is the one in control. You write a ‘recipe’ together for starving the bullies, and role play some positive responses."
I also encouraged Greg to help Danny find a supportive ally at school. As you know, children who are not alone are less likely to be victimized. An additional suggestion for parents of students like Danny is to have parents search the web with their children for safe support groups or communities for children who share the same condition.
♦ 3. The Passive Loner Victim
In addition to the one-dimensional victims and the physically challenged victim, a third type of bullying victim is the passive loner victim. As you know, loner children lack the skills to read emotions and social cues in their peers. As a result, they may harbor obvious insecurities and low emotional thresholds which are easy for bullies to exploit. I explain to parents that a passive loner victim is one who, basically, is shy.
She or he has trouble initiating conversations with peers, and doesn’t know how to join games. When spoke to, the child may avoid eye contact and mumble. A passive loner does not feel comfortable standing up in a room, so finds it impossible to stick up for themselves when confronted by a bully. Passive loner victims tend to crumple, give in, or withdraw from bullies.
♦ 4. The Aggressive Loner Victim
A fourth type of bullying victim is the aggressive loner victim. Like the passive loner victim, the aggressive loner has difficulty reading social cues. He or she may be isolated from peers due to rambunctious, hyper, or aggressive behavior. An aggressive loner may have a history of being sent to the principal’s office at school. I have observed that aggressive loners may cry too often, or not laugh at the right times, or become angry when the situation does not warrant anger. This emotional reactivity makes aggressive loners easy targets.
♦ Technique: The Social Finesse Family
I often recommend that the parents of loners use the Social Finesse family technique to help their children build social skills. I explain to parents that a simple event such as a family dinner hour can have a profound effect on social confidence. To begin, I suggest parents urge their child to tell stories, which will help the student become more articulate.
I also encourage parents to model how gestures, such as leaning in and looking at the student, and sounds, such as saying ‘really?’ demonstrate attentiveness. Modeling rude behavior can also help a student gain better understanding of social interaction. Some other suggestions I make for parents modeling appropriate behavior include pointing out the correct volume for voices, and moving chairs at the table to illustrate where comfort zones begin, and where comfort zones are violated.
♦ 5. The Accidental Victim
In addition to the one dimensional victim, the physically challenged victim, the passive loner victim, and the aggressive loner victim, a fifth type of bullying victim is the accidental victim. As you know, nearly every young boy or girl becomes a target during the middle school years, and the bullying frequently cannot be traced to anything such as a personality or physical trait. Sometimes, the student merely finds him or herself in an unpleasant situation due to happenstance.
Marcie, age 40, was the mother of Paulina, age 14. Marcie stated, "Paulina has always been social, and had a lot of friends. Then her group got into drinking about a year ago. Paulina said no, and she got labeled as an outcast. She tried a new group of friends, and the same thing happened. Now she never gets invited to movies or skating, and I know she’s getting bullied by several girls. It’s really sad."
As you are well aware, providing students like Paulina with models of how others cope and triumph in difficult situations is invaluable. I suggested to Marcie that she might use watching movies with Paulina as a gateway to discussing appropriate responses to unpleasant social situations. One movie I found to be applicable to Paulina’s situation is the movie version of Grease.
I stated to Marcie, "Try setting a special mother-daughter night aside with Paulina, and watch the movie Grease. After it is over, talk about the characters. Critique the decisions the teens make in social situations together. Should Sandy have undergone her ‘juvenile delinquent’ makeover? Or should she have found a boy capable of appreciating her quiet style? Did Roz handle the rumor mill well?" Other more recent movies parents might suggest are "Never Been Kissed" and "She’s All That."
Think of your Marcie. Would it be helpful to your Marcie to introduce watching movies together as a way to teach his or her child how others cope with difficult social situations and bullying?
In this section... we discussed helping parents understand the nature of the bullying a student is experiencing by discussing five types of bullying victims. These five types of victims are the one dimensional victim, the physically challenged victim, the passive loner victim, the aggressive loner victim, and the accidental victim.
In the next section... we will discuss two concepts for helping students work together to deal with bullying at school. These two concepts are, intervening, and the anti-meanness test.
- Menesini, E., Melan, E., & Pignatti, B. (Sep 2000). Interactional Styles of Bullies and Victims Observed in a Competitive and a Cooperative Setting. Journal of Genetic Psychology, 161(3), 261.
Peer-Reviewed Journal Article References:
Fanti, K. A., & Kimonis, E. R. (2013). Dimensions of juvenile psychopathy distinguish “bullies,” “bully-victims,” and “victims”. Psychology of Violence, 3(4), 396–409.
Gini, G., Thornberg, R., & Pozzoli, T. (2020). Individual moral disengagement and bystander behavior in bullying: The role of moral distress and collective moral disengagement. Psychology of Violence, 10(1), 38–47.
Grant, N. J., Merrin, G. J., King, M. T., & Espelage, D. L. (2019). Examining within-person and between-person associations of family violence and peer deviance on bullying perpetration among middle school students. Psychology of Violence, 9(1), 18–27.
Guo, S. (2021). Moderating effects of delinquent peer association, social control, and negative emotion on cyberbullying and delinquency: Gender differences. School Psychology, 36(6), 445–454.
Sharkey, J. D., Ruderman, M. A., Mayworm, A. M., Green, J. G., Furlong, M. J., Rivera, N., & Purisch, L. (2015). Psychosocial functioning of bullied youth who adopt versus deny the bully-victim label. School Psychology Quarterly, 30(1), 91–104.
Strohmeier, D., Wagner, P., Spiel, C., & von Eye, A. (2010). Stability and constancy of bully-victim behavior: Looking at variables and individuals. Zeitschrift für Psychologie/Journal of Psychology, 218(3), 185–193.
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