Predicting Bullying And Violent Behavior

Bullying or being bullied appear to be important indicators that something is wrong. Negative peer influence was found to predict involvement in bullying and victimization. In a recent study, the strongest predictor of both bullying and victimization was delinquency (measured as engaging in vandalism, being a member of a gang, and carrying a weapon onto school property).

In light of the recent shootings, parents and educators have become concerned about whether bullying behavior or being the victim may contribute to more serious acts of aggression. Experts disagree about predicting future violent behavior from earlier bullying tendencies.

Aggression is a very stable trait and can be long lasting. There is some correlation between behavior and later violence, but research is uncertain how strong it is. One commonly cited British study reported that individuals with a history of bullying had a fourfold increase in criminal behavior by the age of 24. The British study, however, examined only violent behaviors — such as beating up someone after school, and not the minor offenses such as name-calling.20.21

Bullying is a serious and widespread problem that may lead to school shootings and suicide. In the United States alone, 269 students, teachers and support personnel died in school-related violence between September 1992 and May 2000. As shocking as that statistic is, those deaths represent only a small percentage of thousands of violent acts that occur each year in the nation’s schools. Parenthetically, the Secret Service recently attempted to create a profile of a child who acts out with gun violence, and found that a student’s tendency to become a school shooter cannot be predicted basedon involvement in bullying activities. Poor academic performance and psychological disorders were not indicators of potential violentbehavior.

This was very disturbing to educators. Educators see these children every day, and they know if certain students have violent tendencies, they want to be able to predict them. The rash of school shootings in recent years has made it even more vital to deal with the problem.