Social Question

Hypocrisy_Central's avatar

Is bullying taught or it is naturally occuring in kids?

Asked by Hypocrisy_Central (26798points) May 10th, 2010

Is bullying and teasing a natural progression for humans or is it taught? If you looked at daycare with children 3 year old down they seem to be interested to play with each other across racial lines, economic lines and to a good point gender lines, but when the kids get older (and it seem the higher in school they go the moiré it happens) a group of the suppose “in” kids start to single out those with physical defects; cleft pallets, strange birth marks, dwarfism etc, and those with Tourette syndrome, Asperger syndrome, etc, later on any kid that don’t “fit in” because they don’t like the music everyone else like, they don’t have a Wii game system, they can’t afford $80 sneakers, or designer labels, etc. If parents did not teach these kids to be so cruel in their teasing and bullying where did they get it from? They must be pretty stealthy if the parents don’t know their “little angel” is terrorizing other kids at school. If the parents did not teach them bullying is it something that just happens like other traits of childhood?

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20 Answers

YARNLADY's avatar

I have worked in the child care field, and I believe there are some children between 2 and 5 who are naturally aggressive and mean. If raised properly, they can lose these traits by the age of 6 or 7.Children can also be taught to be mean.

SeventhSense's avatar

A combination of nature and nurture like most traits.

ZEPHYRA's avatar

@SeventhSense exactly that! It is part of one’s nature and then his immediate environment and upbringing either help to supress it or bring it out even more!

MyNewtBoobs's avatar

This Time article is really good on this subject:,8599,1982190,00.html

Bottom line: Bullies are made, not born.

loser's avatar

Children aren’t born bullies.

SeventhSense's avatar

Not per se but there are predominant traits which lend themselves more easily to it. An introverted child likely wouldn’t become one.

WolfFang's avatar

I also agree with SeventhSense, things are really a combination, but if I had to say, I’d argue that the society/media we live in today has a large influence in the matter.

Dr_Lawrence's avatar

I agree that children range in their aggressive tendencies from birth.

Unfortunately it takes but a few instances of getting away with even mild bullying to set a child on the course of becoming a habitual bully. If it is not caught and stopped early, it can be very difficult to deal with later without implementing severe consequences.

A child that gets bullied may try out bullying a child lower in the pecking order to reinstate their own sense of power in their environment. Getting away with it is enormously reinforcing.

As long as schools do not go off the deep end, a zero tolerance policy towards bullying is the most appropriate way to deal with the problem. A graded series of consequences should be established for infractions. First time bullies can be stopped without suffering the maximum possible punishment. Chronic bullies need the strongest safe and legal measures to turn their behaviour around.

Hypocrisy_Central's avatar

SeventhSense ” A combination of nature and nurture like most traits.” So who or where is the bully nurturing coming from?

papayalily loser ” Bottom line: Bullies are made, not born.” ” Children aren’t born bullies.” The question is, who is creating the bullies if they are not born? Is it boorish parents that unwittingly teach their kids not to respect others? The electronic baby sitter known as the TV?

Seek's avatar

My son, “E” is 21 months old. His close friend “J” is exactly six months older. Mama J and I are together several days a week. We share most of the same parenting ethics, from breastfeeding, to cosleeping, to our discipline methods and off-limits behaviour.

“E”, from day one, has always loved all other people. He never touches another child unless it’s to give them a hug. He smiles and shares his toys. If another kid gets grabby, he’ll happily give up the toy he’s playing with and move on.

“J” is possessive over his toys, your toys, his Mom, everything. He likes to throw things, push kids over (whether they’re smaller than him or not!) and hit them with sticks. He’ll pretend to give a hug, then chest-bump the kid so he hits the ground. It’s seriously disturbing to Mama J that her little boy is so violent. We have no idea where he learned it, or how to make it stop. He’ll literally smack a kid in the face, say “Sorry, E” and put himself in time out. It’s like he’s making the decision that the opportunity to hit this kid is worth the punishment he’s going to receive. But if time out, separation, and taking away toys doesn’t work for a two-year-old, what else are you going to do?

Trillian's avatar

@Hypocrisy_Central When you see a bullying child at school you can almost guarantee that he is being bullied at home. A group of kids ganging up on a less fortunate one is a different dynamic.

Hypocrisy_Central's avatar

@Seek_Kolinahr ”But if time out, separation, and taking away toys doesn’t work for a two-year-old, what else are you going to do?” You chuck the damn time outs and go for something more robust. “Juke balls” work I hear. After about 3 days of that I imagine his additude will change quite a bit.

@Trillian ”When you see a bullying child at school you can almost guarantee that he is being bullied at home.” In what way? When you have people (who seem to be decent, ethical, and quiet people when you meet them in social settings) what way are they bullying their kid(s) if they are not slapping them around? And if they are not slapping their kids around where did the kid such as “J” in @Seek_Kolinahr answer learn to punch, kick, and slap other kids if he/she does not see it at home?

YARNLADY's avatar

@Seek_Kolinahr My 3 yo grandson (Mr X) is currently experimenting with that kind of behavior. We watch him very closely, and remove him from any situation where he can cause damage. I use the ‘distraction’ method as much as possible, but he does run to his room for his own time out when his brother cries about being pushed.

They see every kind of behavior on the TV, and they can also misinterpret what they see. His Dad and I both use our feet to move the baby, or the dog, and Mr X see that as kicking. He is gradually learning what behavior isn’t acceptable, but it takes a lot of attention, time and patience.

SeventhSense's avatar

By nurture of course I don’t mean a warm and affectionate reinforcement necessarily but more an environment which inadvertently creates it. For example, it could be a big kid who is shamed by a domineering father for being sensitive or a mother who lives vicariously through her teenage daughter encouraging her every whim.

Seek's avatar

See, I understand the theories behind bullying behaviour in older (school-age) children, but what about babies. Some young kids (under three) hit, bite, kick… some don’t. What’s the driving force behind that behaviour?

I did fail to mention in my explanatory post that one of the key ways Mama J and I differ, is that she disdains violent or scary movies, and “J” is never allowed to see them. She even fast-forwards the “Sid” scenes in Toy Story. I’m the bad guy that lets my little boy sit next to me on the couch and watch George Romero movies. She has the violent one, I have the kid that likes to share.

Trillian's avatar

@Seek_Kolinahr Babies are hard wired to be egocentric. They do not learn to identify with the needs of others until between the ages of two and three. Slapping is a reflex that needs to be discouraged. If it isn’t, and a parent thinks it’s “cute” then a re-enforcement has taken place and it is then seen as a behaviour that works for the baby.

YARNLADY's avatar

@Trillian Good point. Their brains don’t start to recognize not me for several months, if not years. We are currently having a real hard time with the slapping thing in our 1 year old. He hits, then looks up at us with a cherubic laugh. It’s actually hard to say “no”. I usually just say “That hurts” and turn him away.

SeventhSense's avatar

Yes they just don’t know any better. They’re just fits of exuberance. My nephew would bite my ear off and just smile if I didn’t distract him. And I’d still probably laugh at the cute bugger…—Wittle Mikey Tyson…gootchie gootchie goo—-
But I guess I’m not alone judging by the most popular video on the web
I love those kids.

Hypocrisy_Central's avatar

@Seek_Kolinahr What’s the driving force behind that behaviour? I can’t figure out if bullying has increased that much or that bullies have just gotten more vicious and nasty so it is more noticeable. Is it TV that glorifies “tough guys”? I don’t know but it almost seems like there is something in the water.

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