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How Likely Is Your Kid to Be a Bully – Or a Victim?

According to new research, bullies and their victims are more alike than you might think.  And experts say that knowing what to look for might help us identify at-risk kids before they become either.

Researchers from Louisiana State University and University of California looked at the findings of more than 150 studies on bullying from the past 30 years with an eye toward discovering “what individual and environmental characteristics predict the likelihood of becoming a bully, victim or both.”  What their research revealed is a common set of characteristics that are often present in both bullies and their victims.

The typical bully was found to have academic problems and difficulty with problem solving.  They have negative attitudes and tend to come from families that are high in conflict.

The typical bully victim is also likely to live in a negative environment and have difficulty with problem-solving and social interaction.  In addition, those who are bullied often have a pattern of negative thinking, aggressive tendencies and report feeling isolated and rejected.

While boys are more likely to be bullies than girls, age also plays a part in the personality of the bully.  Younger bullies tend to be more defiant and aggressive than older bullies and care less about being popular.  Older bullies are quieter and more withdrawn and report more depression and anxiety.

This is the first time researchers have looked at the individual and environmental characteristics of  bullies and their victims.  Lead author of the study, Clayton R. Cook, says that this knowledge may help in predicting who will become a bully, a victim or even both.  In addition, he says that the standard approach of removing a bully from the environment and encouraging peer reporting of bullying may not be the most effective way to deal with the problem.  Perhaps by intervening in the lives of children who show signs of bully or victim potential, we can save a whole lot of kids a whole lot of pain.

Image: trixOr/Flickr

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