575: Bullied

A Thousand Things to Talk About
A Thousand Things to Talk About
575: Bullied

How have you or would you handle being bullied? How would that be different if it was your kid being bullied?

Full episode script

Bullying is a topic de jour for sure – across the world and in sociological, psychological, communication, childhood development, and about a dozen other fields of study. Getting into what is behind the cultural zeitgeist would likely take us days to properly break down.


Part of this difficulty would be based in the fact that defining bullying, as opposed to harassment or even abuse, can be a bit difficult — which is understandable, because they are closely interrelated. As Catherine Mattice wrote about workplace bullying:

The defining difference is that workplace bullying is legal in most of the U.S., and discrimination and harassment are illegal. Harassment is about protected characteristics, and workplace bullying is not.


If people are bullied because of their race, religion, gender, sex, sexual orientation, perceived sexual orientation, disability, perceived disability, nationality, or a whole host of other reasons, then that behavior is against the law because it is harassment, and the targets of that behavior have legal recourse.


If a person is an equal-opportunity offender, and bullies a variety of people from a variety of categories, then it is not considered harassment and it is therefore legal.


When you’re not dealing with workplaces or other formal situations where discrimination comes with legal implications — such as in school — the difference is even harder to tell. In other words, they are both behaviors that cause physical, psychological, and emotional impacts. Even the Red Cross of Canada says both are forms of aggression where there is a power imbalance.


In 2013, researcher William Copeland, a clinical psychologist at Duke University Medical Center and his colleagues dug into some of the numbers and those impacts of bullying, based on a study that started 20 years prior. They found that, quote:

Before age 16, participants were asked whether they had been bullied or bullied others, how frequently, and where any bullying occurred, among other questions.


Using this data, the researchers divided the kids into four groups: kids uninvolved in bullying; pure victims who were bullied but did not bully others; pure bullies who were never victimized themselves; and “bully/victims,” a group of kids who both bullied and were bullied.


Five percent of the kids, or 112, were bullies only, and 21.6 percent, or 335 kids, were pure victims. Another 4.5 percent were bully/victims. The rest were neither.


So how to deal with this power imbalance? As an editorial from The Hour pointed out in 2018, quoting from a number of sources, quote:

Everyone needs to learn to deal with bullying because it is part of life.” — Izzy Kalman, nationally certified school psychologist and anti-bullying consultant.


“Bullying is not a normal part of childhood…” Report by a panel of experts commissioned by the National Academy of Sciences.


“Both the American Psychological Association and the National Association of School Psychologists have issued research-based position papers warning against punitive policies for discipline, explaining the myriad ways in which they cause more harm than good. Yet both these organizations advocate for anti-bullying laws, which require bullies to be punished and schools to be punished if they don’t make the bullying stop.” — Association of American Educators.


This doesn’t mean that all hope is lost, in my opinion. After all, it’s often in the situations where there are lots of questions that perspectives and answers that work and create a more supportive culture tend to emerge.

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This script may vary from the actual episode transcript.