Relational aggression or bullying, behavior that is intended to harm someone by damaging or manipulating his or her relationships with others, is a serious issue that affects kids as early as preschool age and can continue into adult workplaces.
In fact, the National Education Association reports that as many as 160,000 kids miss school every day out of fear of being victimized by such behaviors.
Bullying can be difficult for an outsider to observe, identify or prove for a variety of reasons.
First, because this particular form of bullying is discrete. A roll of the eyes, a heavy sigh, a snub in the hallway, or exclusion at the lunch table; are all subtle examples of discrete bullying.
While relational aggression can take many forms, some of the methods include: exclusion, ignoring, gossip, rumors, taunting, teasing, intimidation and cyberbullying.
Some examples include hurtful graffiti on the bathroom walls, text messages, and spreading rumors and lies. These can destroy a child’s reputation.
Secondly, bullying can easily be hidden from adults as bullies tend to be part of the more popular crowd in a school setting, often are very confident, do well in school and classmates rate bullies among the ‘coolest kids’.
Finally, often overt or covert types of aggressive behaviors are considered as a natural part of growing up, building character and thick skin.
Some parents take the stance, “boys will be boys.” It is imperative that school personnel and parents understand that bullying is not just a part of growing up.
In fact being bullied places the child at a higher risk for developing problems in school and at home.
What Schools Can Do About Bullying:
- Increase awareness among school staff.
- Observe students in the classroom, at lunch, in the hall, and on the playground. Note their nonverbal reaction to peers, and consider the following: Who spends most of his/her time alone? Who is a group leader? How do his or her followers act?
- Discuss relational aggression with students in order to make sure they know that starting rumors, ridiculing others and any form of covert bullying is unacceptable.
- Believe the victim; relationally aggressive youth are often skillful at concealing their actions, and many educators may be reluctant to believe a model student is engaged in bullying.
- Find assistance for the victim and the aggressor. Contact a parent or work with staff to foster their social and emotional development.
Dr. Michalopoulou is the Chief of Staff in the Division of Child Psychiatry and Psychology at DMC Children’s Hospital of Michigan overseeing clinical, teaching and research activities in the Division.
She also holds a faculty appointment in the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Neurosciences at Wayne State University School of Medicine.
Additionally Dr. Michalopoulou is conducting research in the area of ethnic and racial health disparities and she has authored several book chapters and peer review articles published in prestigious journals.
Dr. Michalopoulou’s profile can be found on the Children’sHospital of Michigan website at www.ChildrensDMC.org/GeorgiaMichalopoulou