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Bullying is a major problem in schools worldwide. Its consequences may be severe as some cases have led to the suicide of the victims and murder by the bullies. The need for research on this issue is clear, and various professionals are approaching it from different perspectives. One such study was published in the Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry in 2008 (Ball et al.). This paper will provide a review of this article and its analysis.
The primary hypothesis of the paper is that victimization may have several genetic factors that influence the behavior of children who bully others or are victims of bullying. The hypothesis is not clearly stated to be a hypothesis, but the authors express it as the main idea behind the paper. Two examinations were performed based on two ideas. The first was dedicated to the analysis of genetic and environmental influences on children’s connection to bullying while separating bullies and victims. The second instead focused on them simultaneously.
The variables that the authors investigated were the genetic and environmental influences on the bullies, their victims, and bullies who are also victimized by others. The researchers were trying to find if there is a relationship between the outside factors and these groups of people. The sample comprised of 1,116 families chosen with the help of the Environmental Risk Longitudinal Twin Study. It provided a convenience sample of 2,232 same-sex twins that fit the requirements of the study. The main demographic for the study included same-sex twins between the ages of 7 and 10.
It is a qualitative study that used surveys, interviews, and other tools to gather information. These tools included a Life History Calendar that was designed for parents to keep track of their children’s experiences, Child Behavior Checklist that allowed mothers and teachers of the children to track their behavioral patterns. The parents were asked to rate the frequency of the bullying that their children experience and to describe the experience of bullying that their children went through. In the case of bullies themselves, mothers and teachers had to note the frequency of various actions such as verbal and physical abuse of others.
The results of the study suggest that the hypotheses presented by the researchers were partially correct. In over two-thirds of the examined cases, the results suggested that genetic and environmental influences affect children’s victimization. The authors suggest that genetic influences can make children more vulnerable to victimization than those whose parents do not exhibit such characteristics.
Environmental factors are also able to affect, and it may be unique to just one of the twins, while the other can remain unaffected. Bullying was mostly influenced by genetic factors and only partially affected by environmental parameters. Various aspects of personality that can be passed from adults to children such as impulsivity and sensation-seeking can have a significant effect on the children who later become bullies. Only a modest correlation was found between victimization bullying which suggests that the majority of the participants were either bullies or victims, with rare “bully-victims.” For those participants who were a part of this group, only genetic factors had influence, and almost none were affected by environmental ones.
The impact of the individuals on their social environments is mostly discussed in the section about bullies because their actions were the most visible. The majority of the impact was focused on the school setting. It was represented by various types of abuse that bullies performed on their classmates. The study recorded instances of cruel behavior, threats, insults, physical harm, and other antisocial behavior.
The instances were recorded in more than 50% of cases, with moderate and frequent bullying occurring more often than not. Impulsive and sensation-seeking behavior patterns that were developed due to the genetic factors were stated as the main cause of such actions. However, other studies suggest that bullying may be caused by different factors. They are focused on the following factors: insufficient actions against bullying performed by teachers (Veenstra, Lindenberg, Huitsing, Sainio, & Salmivalli, 2017); ethnic minority status of the victims (Hargreaves, Bevilacqua, & Shackleton, 2015); the bystander effect that non-bullied children experience (Salmivalli, 2014) and others.
Some studies suggest that bullying may cause severe effects on the adult lives of people including substance abuse (Lereya, Copeland, Costello, & Wolke, 2015) and other issues (Takizawa, Maughan, & Arseneault, 2014). This fact calls for more advanced research in this field that could reduce the number of negative outcomes for victimized children and the frequency of bullying in general.
The presented study approached the issue of bullying from a genetic and environmental perspective. By selecting a sample of more than 2,000 children, they were able to provide credible results based on their hypotheses. The results suggested that in cases of victimization, both genetic and environmental factors affect the children. Bullies are almost completely affected by genetic factors as their impulsive tendencies are often received from their parents.
The bully-victims were found to be rare and also mostly affected by genetic factors. The main strength of this research is in its unique approach to the issue and the large sample group that was examined. It is limited however because the experiences of twins may be different from those who do not have siblings or have siblings of different sex. Future research should be focused on children without siblings and other conditions.
Ball, H., Arseneault, L., Taylor, A., Maughan, B., Caspi, A., & Moffitt, T. (2008). Genetic and environmental influences on victims, bullies and bully-victims in childhood. Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry, 49(1), 104-112. Web.
Hargreaves, D. S., Bevilacqua, L., & Shackleton, N. (2015). Association between ethnic minority status at school and bullying and mental health outcomes in early adolescence: Cross-sectional analysis of data from the INCLUSIVE study. The Lancet, 386(Supplement 2), S42. Web.
Lereya, S. T., Copeland, W. E., Costello, E. J., & Wolke, D. (2015). Adult mental health consequences of peer bullying and maltreatment in childhood: Two cohorts in two countries. The Lancet Psychiatry, 2(6), 524–531. Web.
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Salmivalli, C. (2014). Participant roles in bullying: How can peer bystanders be utilized in interventions? Theory Into Practice, 53(4), 286–292. Web.
Veenstra, R., Lindenberg, S., Huitsing, G., Sainio, M., & Salmivalli, C. (2017). The role of teachers in bullying: The relation between antibullying attitudes, efficacy, and efforts to reduce bullying. Journal of Educational Psychology, 106(4), 1135–1143.
Takizawa, R., Maughan, B., & Arseneault, L. (2014). Adult health outcomes of childhood bullying victimization: Evidence from a five-decade longitudinal British birth cohort. American Journal of Psychiatry, 171(7), 777–784. Web.