Popular Bullying Targets

Bullying TargetsWhen a child is bullied, whose responsibility is it? There are arguments and there are laws but as of now there are no specific answers. It seems to depend on where the bullying occurred and how the bullying was committed. Critics often blame the schools and some blame the parents but what does blame accomplish? The answer is absolutely nothing!

If you have children who are popular, you may think that they will not be bullying targets. That is not true. Since there are more people who are concerned about the causes and repercussions of bullying, more studies are being done.

The fact used to be that popular kids ruled the schools and sometimes that is still true but sometimes it is not. No longer are just the kids who are “different” victimized. There is a recent study that shows that the number of bullying targets who are high on the socially successful ladder in school are at an increased risk of being teased, ostracized and threatened.

Bullying Targets Can Be Popular

This may not make sense to you but there is an explanation about popular bullying targets that does make sense. The reality is that the kids who are “almost” as popular Bullying Targetsare targeting their rivals in order to knock them down a few rungs. That is the “cheaters” way of stealing their places on the top rung of the popularity ladder.

Robert Faris, associate professor of sociology at the University of California Davis and Diane Felmlee, professor of sociology at Pennsylvania State University investigated the subject of bullying targets. Their findings were published in American Sociological Review. They studied more than 4,200 students in the eighth, ninth, and tenth grades during the 2004-2005 school year.

In the fall, they asked students to record their five closest friendships from which they created a “map” that indicated the shortest paths to the most students with a higher social status. The questions were asked again in the spring of the same academic year. They compared the answers with reports of students being victimized. The victimization included verbal insults, physical aggression, being the target of damaging rumors, and continued and relentless harassment.

An example of their findings regarding popular bullying targets:

Students who started the academic year in the 50th popularity percentile and moved into the 95th popularity percentile had a 25% increased chance of being bullied over those who remained in the 50th popularity percentile. This pertained to both boys and girls.

To be continued.

First Photo: Steven Pisano

Second Photo: SLU Cook Business

Modeling Acceptance

modeling acceptanceA young boy in middle school came home one day and excitedly told his mother that he had met a new friend. He said that his new friend was really smart and that the two of them were going to work on a project for the science fair together. He said that it was going to be a project about a cow’s heart. The mom was excited for her son because of his new friend and because of his enthusiasm about the science fair.

A couple of days later, the young boy asked if his new friend could come over to play after school the next day. The mom said that it would be fine and told him to ask the boy’s mother to call so that they could work out the details. That evening the two mothers spoke and exchanged addresses, bus numbers and the like and it was all arranged. The new friend would ride home on the bus with her son and his mother would come at 5:50 PM to pick up her son to take him home.

The next day, the two boys got off the bus and ran into the kitchen hungry for a snack. The young boy introduced his new friend to his mom and they began to devour their milk and cookies before heading outside to play. The time few by and the mom was thrilled that the boys got along so well because that wasn’t always the case with new friends who came to visit. When it began to get dark, the mom called the boys inside and suggested that they talk about their science project.

Modeling Acceptance:

Sometime later the doorbell rang and the visiting boy’s mother could be seen through the window. The mom invited her inside and the two mothers discussed the events of the day and their happiness about the new friendship that was developing. The mothers had a lot in common and looked forward to the possibility of their own growing friendship.

The mother and son left after the young boy thanked his new friend’s mother for the milk and cookies and for inviting him. All were happy and waved goodbye.

The young boy who had invited his new friend to play went upstairs to work on his homework before dinner. The mom felt good about the afternoon and happily prepared the family’s dinner.

Sometime later, the young boy came running down the stairs shouting, “Mom! Mom!” “What is it?” the mom asked. Her son said, “I forgot to tell you that he was black.” The mother gave her son a hug and said, “I did notice that.” Her son said, “But I forgot to tell you that when I asked if he could come over to play.” Happily the mother realized that she was modeling acceptance for her son. The mom looked at him and asked, “Why would you think that you should have told me that?” The young boy answered, “The bus driver said ‘I hope you told your parents the color of your friend’s skin before you invited him.’”

All the mother could do was hug her son and tell him how proud she was of him that the color of someone’s skin didn’t register as important to him. She said, “Those of us who don’t see color, race, or any other differences as important are the lucky ones. Do you know why?” He looked up at her. “Because that means that there are so many more people in the world who can become our friends than will become the friends of the people who think those differences matter.” The people who aren’t modeling acceptance lose out on so much happiness and friendship.

The mom made a mental note to follow through on the bus driver’s comment.

Photo: woodleywonderworks 

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