What is physical bullying? What can be done to stop it by parents, the community, teachers, and neighbors? Physical bullying is when one person or a group of people picks on or harasses another person by confronting them face-to-face. It can range from subtle actions to casually degrade the person over time, to a series of more aggressive and direct acts to purposefully hurt the person in a more immediate manner. Physical bullying can also at times be sexual in nature, as its psychological roots are based in the desire to dominate and control someone, making the perpetrator feel more powerful.
|SEE ALSO: Types of Bullying in Schools|
Physical Bullying and What Behavior it Entails
Physical bullying can include harassment like name-calling or stalking, and can also entail more violent behavior such as physical abuse, hitting or intimidating. Sometimes groups of young adults will target and alienate a peer because of some adolescent prejudice. This can quickly lead to a situation where they are being taunted, tortured, and beaten-up by their fellow classmates. Physical bullying can have a tragic ending and therefore must be stopped quickly.
How to Tell if Someone is Getting Bullied
There are some tell-tale signs that someone is being bullied. It is important to know what these signs are so that you can beware if someone is a victim of physical bullying. In children and young adults, you may notice that they are withdrawn and a sad silence surrounds them. If a child does not want to go to school, attend after school programs, walk home by themselves, take the bus ride home, or go to a friend’s house, it is important to inquire about their feelings surrounding the matter. After all, the best way to know something about your child is to ask them.
However, for both children and those who are older, it is oftentimes hard for them to admit to being a victim of physical abuse and talk about what they are going through for a number of reasons. Sometimes there are afraid of getting in even more trouble than they are already in. Sometimes the victim blames himself or herself in a twisted attempt to make sense of the abuse. Often bullies threaten their victims with worse forms of abuse if they were to call the police or tell someone that could help them. In these ways victims of physical bullying learn to stay silent about their plight and accept their fate. This can result in severe trust and self-esteem issues later on in other relationships.
Those At Risk of Physical Bullying
Bullying often refers to interactions between children, but physical bullying can happen to anyone. Adults, young children, teenagers, and the elderly are all at risk of being victims of physical bullying. Regardless of how young or old a person is, there is always a chance that someone could harass or abuse them. Sometimes with children, bullying happens away from home, but physical bullying can also take place in the home. Children at school and attending after school programs are also in danger of being physically bullied.
Why Bullies Bully
The roots of physical bullying are mainly violent, but some people who tend to dominate have underlying emotional issues urging them to control others. This is an indirect way to make them feel better; by degrading the victim with verbal and physical abuse, they somehow ease their own pain, albeit temporarily and superficially. They elevate their own ego through the degradation of others. This domineering and sometimes sadistic behavior seems to be genetically predisposed, but ultimately develops from harsh parenting styles.
Modern Psychology on Physical Bullying
Phillip Zimbardo is a psychiatrist who is famous for his revolutionary social experiment, the Stanford Prison Experiment. Zimbardo states that domineering, controlling and abusive behavior is situational. In other words, abusive behavior is fueled by the environment the person is placed in.
The 25 male college students who volunteered for the experiment were given mental assessments to make sure they were mentally stable and had no personality disorders. They lived in a makeshift prison, where some volunteers posed as prisoners, and others as guards, and Zimbardo himself posed as the prison warden (in addition to observing as the researcher). Soon the volunteers had settled into their roles; however, the guards became ruthless and abusive, harassing the prisoners and enjoying watching them being tormented. Guards would deprive prisoners of food and water, and subject the prisoners to humiliating acts of domination and physical bullying. Prisoners would side with the guards against other prisoners that broke the “prison rules”. As prisoners became more submissive, guards became more dominant and aggressive. Zimbardo himself admitted to thinking more like a warden than a researcher. 6 days into what was to be a 14-day experiment, Zimbardo terminated the experiment, as one of the therapists feared for the safety of the test subjects.
This experiment proved that people conform to the social norms required of them. When placed in an environment where people are expected to act in a certain why, they will participate in groupthink. Consequently, institutions are hot spots for human rights abuse due to their nature of putting one group of people above the other. Furthermore, when normal friendly people are placed in environments where one party is in control of another party, abuse is almost inevitable, which can result in physical bullying.
A school is no prison, but this dynamic should be taken into consideration when attempting to search for blame. Meaning, it’s not the bullies’ fault. They are victims of a very real phenomenon brought about by the very environment of school. That is why often times the quiet smart kids are picked on more, simply because they are an easy target. With proper counseling, bullies can cease their abusive behavior, decreasing victim of physical bullying.