The Social Science of Bullying and Aggression

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The Social Science of Bullying and Aggression

Bullying happens to the person more vulnerable than the bully. / Photo by: dolgachov via 123rf


Bullying is a distinctive pattern of harming and humiliating other people. This happens specifically to those who are in some way smaller, weaker, younger, or in any way more vulnerable than the bully. Bullying is not garden-variety aggression. It is a deliberate and repeated attempt to cause harm to others of lesser power. It’s very durable behavioral style, largely because bullies get what they want. Bullies are made, not born, and it happens at an early age if the normal aggression of 2-year-olds isn’t handled with consistency. Meanwhile, as technology progresses, a new kind of bullying also emerged.

Electronic bullying has become a significant problem in the past decade. The ubiquity of hand-held and other devices afford bullies to have a constant access to their prey, and the harassment can often be carried out anonymously. Studies show that bullies lack prosocial behavior and they are untroubled by anxiety and do not understand others’ feelings. They misread the intentions of others, often imputing hostility in neutral situations. They typically see themselves quite positively. Most of them have strained relationships with their parents and peers, and they cannot live with their prey.

Every day, thousands of teens wake up frightened to go to school because of bullying. It is a problem that affects millions of students, and it has to make everybody worried.

Science Daily defined bullying as a kind of harassment done by an individual who thinks that they are more physically and socially stronger than their weaker peer. Over the years, studies have been conducted in order to asses bullying and social aggressiveness and researchers found out that bullying has four essential elements and these are: “the behavior is aggressive and negative; the behavior is carried out repeatedly; the behavior occurs in a relationship where there is an imbalance of power between the parties involved, and the behavior is purposeful.”

Likewise, in an article posted by Biocompare, they shared that researchers recently discovered that the growth protein factor and its receptor has a role to play in the aggression behavior which causes the bully to attack its prey. News Medical explained that the research was conducted with mice in order to understand social dominance which causes bullying. They also stressed out that the mice and humans are almost alike since people based their interaction based on the social hierarchy and if it fails, it could create an aggressive behavior with the person.

The Science of Aggression and Bullying

Moreover, News Medical added that the researchers tried to remove the TrkB receptor in the GABAergic interneurons to know the behavioral consequences of the disrupted BDNF-TrkB. Their experiment found out that the removal of the TrkB receptor could trigger an unusually aggressive behavior when they tried to include the normal mice with the experimented mice. Science Daily also added that exposure to bullying as a child was associated with psychiatric disorders in adulthood that require treatment in a study of Finnish children, according to an article published online by JAMA Psychiatry.

Childhood aggression, particularly children that are aggressive against other children, has long been a significant clinical and social problem. Over the past fifteen years, the emphasis and focus of this problem have shifted to understanding and preventing a specific form of aggression referred to as bullying. It is a distinct type of aggression and children who bully deliberately hurt others, often in a systematic way such as name calling, threatening, isolating others, spreading rumors, text messaging and emailing hurtful ideas.


Aggressive children has been a social and clinical problem. / Photo by: Illia Marozau via 123rf


A recent study published at the issue of School Psychology Quarterly that offers an important glimpse into the current state of the available science that explains bullying. In an article titled, “Predictors of bullying and victimization in childhood and adolescence: A Meta-analytic investigation” examined a pool of over 1,500 studies which are conducted since 1970 about bullying and specifically identified 153 which they combined and analyzed to discover the current state of knowledge concerning bullying.

Furthermore, researchers also claim that bullying is motivated by a neurological disorder, where the brain activates a reward response to the aggressive action. Behavioral experiments on mice found that those who acted aggressively toward the inferior mice have developed a preference for bullying over non-aggression, suggesting that they found the ability to subordinate another mouse rewarding. Dr. Scott Russo, from Mount Sinai Hospital who led the research, said the unique study is the“first to demonstrate that bullying behavior activates a primary brain reward circuit that makes it pleasurable to a subset of individuals.

The report says the activation of the brain reward circuit is caused by the projection of a neurotransmitter which reduces activity in the part of the brain that usually creates an aversion to violence. Researchers manipulated neurotransmitter activity providing them with conclusive evidence that its stimulation is sufficient and necessary to alter the inclination to bully. The report’s findings may provide useful information for the development of drugs in order to treat aggression-related neuropsychiatric disorders.



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