Understanding the Roots of Bullying Behavior in Children: Parental Influences and Interventions
Bullying is prevalent in the United States, negatively impacting all youth involved, including those who get bullied, those who bully others, and those who witness the bullying.
The CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) says this problem is so common that one in five high school students report getting bullied.
How do parents influence children to develop bullying behavior at home? What actions can you take as a parent to help address bullying tendencies among children?
This article discusses how parents and the home environment influence bullying behavior in children. It also discusses the various interventions that can help minimize or prevent bullying tendencies among children.
Studies have shown that children’s bullying behavior may be influenced by family, friends, school, or the community. At home, the parents can cause children to develop bullying tendencies.
Identifying the roots of such behavior in children can help concerned individuals address bullying more effectively.
For example, attachment parenting, as described in “Parenting: Pros & Cons, 8 Principles, & 7 Baby Bs”, may help children experience their parents’ love and warmth at a very young age. As they grow older, this bond may help them be comfortable expressing their feelings without becoming defensive.
Read on to learn more about parental influences that can lead to bullying behavior and the interventions that can help address bullying.
How Parents Influence Bullying Behavior Among Children
Research shows that genetic factors may contribute to 61% of the variation in bullying behavior. Despite these findings, experts haven’t established with certainty how families impact bullying behavior, even after considering hereditary influences.
Still, studies suggest that, aside from school, community, and peer influences, one’s family, including the parents, can contribute to the bullying and victimization dynamic.
And when it comes to the perpetration of bullying, researchers have associated it with various family characteristics that include the following:
- Poor parental supervision
- Parental conflict
- Domestic violence
- Parental abuse
- Authoritarian parenting
- Poor parental communication
- Inappropriate discipline
- Family members’ gang involvement
- Lack of parental emotional support
- Negative family environment
Some kids who bully often only copy the behavior they see at home. For example, children who witness unkind and aggressive interactions with their parents may accept such acts as acceptable and treat others the same way.
Findings on family characteristics that perpetrate bullying appear consistent with concerned individuals’ arguments that poor parental supervision and aggressive modeling (related to how reward and punishment affect aggressive behavior) may lead to bullying.
When a perpetrator bullies a targeted youth, the act may inflict psychological, physical, social, or educational harm or distress on the victim.
Common ways of bullying include:
- Physical bullying: Hitting, tripping, and kicking
- Verbal bullying: Teasing and name-calling
- Relational or social bullying: Spreading of rumors and being left out of the group
- Property damage: Destroying the victim’s property
Interventions to Help Address Bullying Tendencies
Bullying prevention approaches shown to be most effective usually confront the issue from many angles and involve the school community. This community consists of students, families, teachers, administrators, and school staff working to promote and create a culture of respect.
If you’re a parent, one way to contribute to addressing bullying is to keep your behavior in check. Think about how you talk when your kids are around and how you handle problems and conflicts.
If you behave aggressively toward or in front of your children, there’s a good chance that they’ll follow your example. So be mindful of your actions as they may reflect what you want your kids to do.
Also, ensure your kids understand that you don’t tolerate bullying at home or anywhere else, and be firm with your conditions. Set bullying rules and reasonable but meaningful punishments if your child breaks the rules.
For example, if your child starts bullying others on social networking, consider taking away their computer privileges for a specific period.
Aside from setting rules, teach your kids to respect and treat others with kindness. Try to instill empathy for people of different races, genders, appearances, special needs, and economic statuses in your children.
Positive reinforcement rather than negative discipline is also an effective way to encourage good behavior. Consider noticing your kids doing good deeds; when they handle situations positively, praise them for their actions.
Sometimes, your child’s social life may influence their behavior in ways you don’t know about. Learn about your child’s social life and look for insights into what may affect their behavior.
You can talk to their teachers, guidance counselors, and parents of their classmates and friends. You may discover what challenges kids face at school or if other kids bully. Talk to your kids about those challenges and relationships so you can intervene when needed.
Bullying is preventable if you understand and address the factors that expose children to or protect them from such violence. Studies show that adults can help prevent bullying by encouraging children to do what they love, modeling respect and kindness, educating kids about bullying, and seeking help.
- Fast Fact: Preventing Bullying
- Understanding the Psychology of Bullying: Moving Toward a Social-Ecological Diathesis–Stress Model
- Teaching Kids Not to Bully
- Facts About Bullying