I previously wrote a post relating to bullying. It is an experience, certainly from the victims point of view, that never leaves you. You never forget the victimisation. What I have began to wonder over recent days is whether those that bully ever regret or think over their actions in the past.
Bullying is defined as repeated aggression in which one or more persons intend to harm or disturb another person physically, verbally, or psychologically, often through the use of an imbalance of power between the bully and the victim (Bowes et al, 2009; Herba et al, 2008; Olweus, 1994; Salmivalli, 2010). Examples of physical bullying are hitting, kicking, pushing, and the taking of personal belongings; examples of verbal bullying are name calling and threatening; and examples of psychological bullying are excluding, isolating, and gossiping. The long term effects of being a victim of bullying has been well documented including feelings of helplessness and hopelessness, poor self-esteem, anxiety and anger (Dombeck, 2012).
However, what is rather under researched is the long term impact that bullying has on the bullies themselves. There is of course plenty of research that suggests that those who are bullies when they are young will grow up to develop criminal tendencies, an inability to form strong friendships, favouring instead many shallow friendships, and become hostile and domineering (Craig, 1998; Kumpulainen et al., 1998) among other things. There is also research on the characteristics of bullies, finding that they typically lack empathy, have low anxiety and a high level of insecurity (Olweus, 1996). Yet there is little, if anything, on the psychological state that bullies end up in when they are older.
Perhaps the lack of research suggests that there is no impact mentally for bullies, that it means little, if anything, to purposely target an individual to make themselves feel better and justified in their existence. Some research suggests that bullies have poor moral reasoning and low empathy (Perren, Gutzwiller-Helfenfinger, Maltiand Hymel, 2012). On this reasoning, it is possible to suggest that bullies are unable to reason that their behaviour is bad. In the case of the current bullies that I come into contact with, I cannot see what they do as ever affecting them. They, particularly the ringleader, seem to feel that their actions are justified due to an incorrectly perceived wrong. This, in some ways, gives some realistic proof of bullies having disengaged reasoning with the belief that it is not bullying but instead recompense. Though I must admit on my part that this is a subjective and slightly biased belief.
So, instead I will flip this consideration and look from the opposite side – why does bullying still haunt its victims many years later? Why do we care when, if the prophecies teachers and parents say that bullies will never get anywhere in life are true, do we still care. I must confess that I did because I wanted to know if it was true, if there was some kind of recompense for what happened many years ago. In my case I have found that few have not done well in life. Instead they have continued on in much the same way, continuing to be unkind and bullying.
On the other hand, I must stress that all who bully are not bad. I have known many bullies who have changed for the better and regretted their past actions. Some have gone on to contact those that they victimised and apologised for bullying them in the past. Granted rather late apologies but better late than never and it is the thought behind the action of contacting and apologising that is important.
From the research that I have presented, and my own personal experience, I think it is safe to say that many bullies do not regret what they do. I would even go so far as to say that they may not even perceive it as bullying. It seems that it is the victims who regret the actions of the bullies and give time and thought to past events. For the bullies, it barely touches their lives at all.
Bowes, L., Arseneault, L., Maughan, B., Taylor, A., Caspi, A., and Moffitt, T. E. (2009) ‘School, neighborhood, and family factors are associated with children’s bullying involvement: a nationally representative longitudinal study’ Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry 45 (5), 545-553.
Craig, W. M. (1998). ‘The relationship among bullying, victimization,
depression, anxiety, and aggression in elementary school children’ Personality
and Individual Differences, 24 (1), 123–130.
Dombeck, M. (2012) The Long Term Effects of Bullying, <http://www.aaets.org/article204.htm>, accessed 28 June 2013.
Herba, C. M., Ferdinand, R. F., Stijnen, T., Veenstra, R., Oldehinkel, A. J., Ormel, J., & Verhulst, F. C. (2008) ‘Victimisation and suicide ideation in the TRAILS study: specific vulnerabilities of victims’ Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry 49 (8), 867-876.
Kumpulainen, K., Rasanen, E., Henttonen, I., Almqvist, F., Kresanov, K.,
Linna, S.-L. (1998). ‘Bullying and psychiatric symptoms among
elementary school-age children’ Child Abuse & Neglect, 22 (4), 705–717.
Olweus, D. (1994) ‘Bullying at school: basic facts and effects of a school based intervention program’ Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry 35 (7), 1171-1190.
Olweus, D. (1996) ‘Bullying at school: knowledge base and an effective intervention program’ Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences 794 (1), 265-276
Perren, S., Gutzwiller-Helfenfinger, E., Malti, T. and Hymel, S. (2012) ‘Moral reasoning and emotion attributions of adolescent bullies, victims, and bully-victims’ British Journal of Developmental Psychology, 30 (4), 511-530
Salmivalli, C. (2010) ‘Bullying and the peer group: a review’ Aggression and Violent Behavior, 15 (2), 112–120.