Though school bullying is not the parent’s “fault”, new research shows that parenting styles affect students’ behavior at school.
School bullying involves name-calling, shoving, and taunting in the playground or in the classroom. Usually, bullies at school act out of earshot of teachers, principals, or playground supervisors. School bullying can also involve spreading rumors, causing isolation, and humiliating students.
To analyze how school bullies are “created”, Elizabeth Sweeney, a University of Cincinnati master’s degree student in sociology, reviewed research from England, Germany, Norway, Japan, South Africa, and the United States. Sweeney studied children’s behavior at school, focusing on kids from age nine to 16 years old.
Apart from parenting style, Sweeney found that children from middle-income families were less likely to bully than children from the high and low ends of the family income scale.
Children who experience hostility, abuse, physical discipline and other aggressive behaviors by their parents are more likely to model that behavior in their peer relationships, writes Sweeney.
Authoritarian parents can be demanding, directive, and unresponsive – which can lead kids to bully their peers at school. This parenting style is in direct contrast to a gentler parenting style, which is more nurturing, warm, and responsive. Children raised in non-authoritarian homes are less likely to bully at school.
Children learn from their parents how to behave and interact with others,” Sweeney says. “So if they’re learning about aggression and angry words at home, they will tend to use these behaviors as coping mechanisms when they interact with their peers.
Some research states that boys bully at school more often than girls, while other research finds that boys and girls are equal-opportunity bullies. Girls are more verbal in their bullying (e.g., name-calling, spreading rumors), while boys tend to be more physical in their bullying at school (e.g., pushing and shoving in the playground).
According to Sweeney, North Americans tolerate bullying more than Europeans do. Plus, researchers in the United States haven’t studied school bullying as much as Europeans have. Sweeney suggests that more research is needed to stop school bullying, including in-depth interviews with children, families, and school officials.
Elizabeth Sweeney presented her research findings on August 4th, 2008 at the 103rd annual meeting of the American Sociological Association.