It’s no secret that kids can be cruel and that children who are bullied frequently carry those emotional scars into adulthood. It’s a sad truth that victims of bullying are more likely to have anxiety, depression, and trouble forming healthy social connections.
So, what about their perpetrators- the bullies themselves? Why did they do it? Did they get away scot-free? It may seem as though there are no consequences for a bully as he or she climbs the social ladder of childhood. While they are frequently disliked by their peers, bullies often become social leaders, primarily because other children do not wish to stand up to them and risk being bullied themselves.
Why They Do It
So why do they do it? That answer requires a little digging. Bullies seem to share a few traits, according to the findings of a U.K. study. For one, bullies are more likely than non-bullies to live in a home without two biological parents. Many live in a single-parent, extended family, or foster home. This leads scientists to believe that bullies may not receive the attention they need at home to be healthy.
Secondly, bullies tend to hold a negative view of themselves. The act of picking on other kids seems to make bullies feel better about themselves – in that moment. Bullies are frighteningly good at singling out those who have trouble fitting in, and they pick on those children.
Finally, bullies frequently use societal attitudes to attack their victims. For example, if a bully lives in a community that looks down upon gays and lesbians, the bully will seek out victims who appear to be gay or lesbian. If the bully is in an environment in which athletes are highly honored, he will look for kids who are not good at sports. In other words, a bully is perceptive enough to recognize societal norms and use them as a weapon.
How A Bully Feels
Like the satisfaction you might experience from a bad vice, a bully may feel satisfied for a short time after an attack. He briefly makes himself feel better about his own life and also intimidates witnesses into acting like “friends.” However, as the reality of life sinks back in, the bully needs another fix, another opportunity to make someone else feel as awful as he does.
The U.K. study, involving 666 students ages 12 to 16, found that bullies are at a high risk for alcohol and substance abuse. In fact, 59% of bullies said they had been offered alcohol in the last seven days, compared to 28.5 percent of non-bullies. Researchers also report that bullies are at a higher risk for mental health problems, including anxiety, depression, and hostility. While hostility may be enough to scare other children into following him, it does not translate well in the real world. Adults are far less likely to willingly spend time with a bully, employers are unwilling to put up with the behavior, and romantic partners spend their time searching for a way out. The payoff simply is no longer there. And yet, for some, it continues…
Becoming An Adult Bully
Although the social benefits of being a bully diminish over time, bullies can carry their hurtful behavior well into adulthood. According to BullyingStatistics.org, bullying parents exist and can do damage to children – both their own and others. While some childhood bullies learn to feel better about life and alter their behavior, others do not. They continue to seek a way to feel better at the expense of others. Whether it is physical, emotional, or mental, adult bullies look for way to demean other people in order to feel superior. Bullying behavior can be seen at home, little league games, online, or anywhere else victims are available. While it’s teachers and school administrators who deal with childhood bullies, law enforcement officers take on adult bullies.
Bullies Suffer For Their Actions
Most bullies are intelligent and highly charismatic. However, they may also show traits of anger, aggression, hyperactivity, and violence. It appears that bullying cuts both ways. It makes the bully feel better for a time, but leaves him with emotional scars. Studies indicate that children who were bullies in grades six to nine are 60% more likely to have a criminal conviction by age 24. A bully is five times more likely than a victim to have a serious criminal record in adulthood.
For those bullies that do manage to stay out of the criminal justice system, life is still not easy. According to the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, workplace bullying causes $3 billion in lost productivity and $19 billion in loss employment every year. While people often consider CEOs to be bullies, bullies often have trouble holding a job for long and couldn’t make it to a CEO position. Bullies are 11 times more likely to suffer from a conduct disorder than non-bullies, a trait non-conducive with long term employment or romantic relationships.
Treating The Bully
Perhaps more adults do not step in to stop bullies because they can be so charismatic. Maybe it’s because bullies appear to be socially adept. Whatever the reason, it is important to look past what appears to be and see the hurting child behind bully. The earlier psychological help is found for that child, the lower the likelihood that he will continue to victimize other children.
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