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BULLY - Stop Bullying Even When the World Encourages It

Updated on December 28, 2014

American Culture

Bullying is deeply ingrained in American culture long-term, but the public is becoming more aware and fewer people are accepting bullying behavior towards themselves. it helps to hear or see others stand up to bullying.

From where does bullying come? What causes bullying and who will stop it?

Having worked with clients and patients on both sides of bullyism over three decades, I can offer some understanding from my experience, along with some peer-reviewed references.

Bullyism and its worst form, the chronic abusiveness of domestic violence, child abuse, and others is partially related to the competition of war and winning by any means – or, dirty fighting. Even in “clean” warfare or the good sportsmanship woven into sporting competition, one side usually wins, with power over the other side. Even sports have bloodshed.

From where does bullying come? What causes bullying and who will stop it?


Biological Survival and Competition

Farthest back in time, bullying or bullyism can at least partially be tied to the survival of stronger humans against weaker individuals, from early humans to contemporary cultures. This includes the competition for resources like food, water, sex/reproduction, and shelter; up the scale to land and cattle; further up the scale to today’s tangible and intangible valuables.

Long ago, the strongest individuals took the resources they targeted and rebuffed or killed others they considered threats to those resources. it still occurs today. I see the same behaviors in the form of intense competition in the workplace, in some sports, in schools. in the rise of the popularity of Reality Shows, and even in some churches and clubs.

There is evidence that over crowding and over population fuel bullyism. The classic references for that is a 1958 experiment published by researcher Bill Calhoun in 1962. I’ve referred to the study several times on HubPages since early 2007 in discussing population, immigration, competition, and global warming and their interactions. In February 2011, a HubPages Forums thread in Politics and Social Issues opened on this specific experiment, which students and scientists have long-ago nicknamed “too many rats in a cage (or box).”

  • Calhoun, John B. (1962), "Population density and social pathology", Scientific American No. 206: pp139–148.
  • Calhoun, John B. (1962). “A Behavioral Sink.” In Eugene L. Bliss Ed., Roots of Behavior. New York: Harper & Brothers, Ch. 22.
  • Calhoun, John B. (1973), "Death Squared: the Explosive Growth and Demise of a Mouse Population." Proceedings of the Royal Society of Medicine; Vol. 66; pp80-88.


Related HubPages Forum Thread:


From survival, the phenomenon has transferred to everyday industrialized life: preschool, school, the workplace, clubs, churches, what have you. In a study my research group completed in the mid-1990s, the Number One problem in my county’s school systems from daycare and preschool to 12th grade was reported as violence among children and youth to one another and to adults.


Is bullyism and its violence necessary for humans to survive?

Interesting Perspectives On Bullying


Social and Political Power

More so than in the war analogy, bullying manifests as the cowardice that picks on those smaller, weaker, or less socio-politically powerful than oneself.

Although some research shows that bullies have been bullied themselves, the targets of bullies are also sometimes some sort of threat to the bully.

The targets threaten to receive or to have the potential to receive attention, love, education, a good job, money, fame, responsibility, and authority, along with other intangibles and tangibles. Thus, bullies can be seen picking either on 1) smaller, weaker people or animals; and. or 2) people that may attract larger amounts of power than the bully. Some of the most frequently occurring and clearest cases of Number 2 in modern times are a) women abused by mates when they gather friends, are offered a job, etc. and b) children and youth that do well in school in academics; in arts, music, drama, etc.; or in all.

The research of Dr. Dan Owleus (below) is highlighted by the American Psycholocial Association. It focuses on the bully with anger and impulse control problems, the need for power, consistent defiance toward adults, and lack of empathy. This suggests a sociopath, making bullies mentally ill. This research does not directly link to competition, although a sociopath may seem to be in competition against the world, in a way, at least to people he or she rebuffs.


Bullying Can Cause Severe Mental Disorders

Bullying by peers may increase the risk of the bullied developing psychotic symptoms later in life. The 2011 study, published in the American Journal of Psychiatry, used data from the Environmental Risk Longitudinal Twin Study, which follows 2,232 twin children and their families.

Mothers of the children were interviewed and, at age 12, children were asked about bullying experiences and psychotic symptoms, such as hallucinations, delusions or paranoia. The study found that children who were bullied by peers were more than twice as likely to experience psychotic symptoms at age 12 compared with children who did not suffer similar trauma.-- Arseneault et. al., 2011.

Role of Substance Abuse

Bullying, especially domestic violence and child abuse are often accelerated by the use of alcohol and drugs. Many adults perpetrators of abuse are found to suffer a Dual Diagnosis mentla health disorder (meaning more than one Severe Mental Disorder or SMD) and in my city, the average number of SMDs among the clients and patients I saw was 4 SMDS. Alcohol and/or substance abuse was one of the SMDs we usually saw.

A proportion of teens and pre-teens use alcohol and drugs, but I have no data about how this relates to their bullying other youth or younger children. It is reasonable that some targets of bullying at these ages begin to use alcohol and/or drugs to escape their related anxiety and fear.

Response and Treatment


Prevention is more effective than treatment in many conditions and diseases. For example, washing you hand often is preferable to becoming ill and dying with an untreatable strain of flu.

People are dying from the actions of bullies. Bullies sometimes kill their targets and sometimes drive their targets to commit suicide. Bullyism can be accepted as a disease and treatment offered, but it seems difficult to be successful. Prevention is more effective than treatment as it is in many diseases and conditions.

The phenomenon and potential of bullyism may ever be eradicated from our culture completely. As the planet becomes more crowded, bullyism may be stimulated to occur more than ever. Therefore, children can benefit from training to resist its actions and effects. So can adults that do not know how to effectively resist bullies.

A System of Steps

There are checklists round the Internet of steps to take to diffuse and avoid bullies.

  • One of the most important steps in prevention of bullyism is to not allow yourself to be near it. Do not be a target by not being around a bully or by not looking as though you are affected by him or her.
  • Calm confidence, straight posture, and chin-up, head-up, eyes alert stance is recommended both sitting and standing if a bully is near.
  • Ignoring name-calling and other insults and walking away from them is also recommended.
  • Report school bullies to teachers, administration staff, parents, and even the police if necessary and expect results. This should happen at work as well, but not all employers or HR departments are fast to respond - sometimes EEO action must be initiated.

Other steps are listed in the link below.


Bystander Effect

As in the original Kitty Genovese case that brought the bystander effect of watching viloence and not reporting it to public attention, modern cases of bullying are drawing bystander effect as well in schools.

One such educational facility is Upper Darby in Delaware County, Pennsylvania according to the article Schools Implement Anti-Bullying Plans:, retrieved February 7, 2011. Seven high school teens attacked an eighth outside the school on a street, while a woman walked by and ignored them. Quote from Professor Phillip Rutter:

'Bullying can cause teenagers to have suicidal thoughts, according to Rutter. He said bullying typically begins in a classroom setting and then moves to the schoolyard and bus rides. And now, with text messaging and social media sites, like Facebook and Twitter, bullying can occur 24/7. “A young person doesn’t feel any escape, which leads to suicidal thoughts,” Rutter said.'

Joint Efforts Can End Bullying

It seems to me that parents must teach children not to bully and not to accept bullying and to take action when they see the related behavior. This must be reinforced in schools, where teachers and administrations take action against bullying behavior consistently.

After high school graduation, adults need to use their effective techniques to resist bullies at work, in college, even in clubs, in church, and at the grocery store. Universities and colleges need to continue to act against hazing rituals. In the workplace, increasing numbers of employers need to be alert to bullying and abuse on the job and to act against it. People that see bullying need to report it to appropriate authorities.

Domestic and child abuse agencies are available in many cities to help those targets, but in less densely population areas of the US, these are not always close enough to help. These agencies are part of a system that attmpts to improve itself and reach more people that desparately need their help, but domestic and child abuse are large problems with many side issues. This portion of bullying may be the longest-lived until society is able to eradicate it.

Early Prevention

Prevention in the form of 1) education and 2) clear cut and fair rules and consequences must begin early, given the early age that violence and bullying begins.

In my research group's observations, we found a 4-year-old climbing into cribs at a daycare and biting infants hard on the back as they slept. There was a 6-year-old that jumped onto children and adults, bit their arms, and drew blood, all without intervention by the child’s parents. A few parents urged their children to physically harm other children or their own siblings. We heard substantial name-calling and put-downs among children. Many children would not keep their hands to themselves - constantly pushing, poking, slapping, etc. Many children used large numbers of R-rated profanities, all the way down to the age of 4 years old.

© 2011 Patty Inglish MS

Comments and Experiences

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    • Lord De Cross profile image

      Joseph De Cross 

      7 years ago from New York

      Thanks for the adding Patty, Bullying is rampant more than ever, So many young kids just don't see a way out, even through cyber-bullying.

    • Michele Travis profile image

      Michele Travis 

      7 years ago from U.S.A. Ohio

      Patty, you are so correct in this hub. Bullying has caused teens to commit suicide. We see it on the news more and more. We need to end this. Schools are not doing enough to stop bullying. They are the first to see bullying and they need to act first to stop it.

      Thank you for writing this hub.

      Voted up.

    • Patty Inglish, MS profile imageAUTHOR

      Patty Inglish MS 

      8 years ago from USA and Asgardia, the First Space Nation

      It's competition gone to far and today it is worse.

    • profile image


      8 years ago

      I think the idea that bullying is a survival strategy is misled. If bullying one another was key to our survival I don't think there'd be many of us left to talk about. We have survived despite bullying not because of it. The bully is usually the weakest individual, certainly the one most full of fear.

      "Long ago, the strongest individuals took the resources they targeted and rebuffed or killed others they considered threats to those resources."

      I think this quote is much truer of contemporary human society than ever it was of times "Long ago".

    • funmontrealgirl profile image


      9 years ago from Montreal

      Bullies break your spirit. We don't need that kind of negativity. Thanks for educating us how bullying needs to be stopped, seriously.

    • Earth Angel profile image

      Earth Angel 

      9 years ago

      You really are a gift to the world Patty! I forward your Hubs onto many people in my extensive emailing group! You offering ebooks is brilliant! Blessings, EarthAngel!

    • Patty Inglish, MS profile imageAUTHOR

      Patty Inglish MS 

      9 years ago from USA and Asgardia, the First Space Nation

      Thanks, Earth Angel -- I'll get it all set up and let you know; you can give me your critique. This is great to be able to do eBooks like Ben Zoltak and Bishop Miller.

    • Earth Angel profile image

      Earth Angel 

      9 years ago

      Yes, yes, yes I vote you put this into an ebook! Let me know - I will purchase your first copy! You are just the BEST! Blessings for all your amazingly positive efforts to make the world a better place! EarthAngel!

    • Patty Inglish, MS profile imageAUTHOR

      Patty Inglish MS 

      9 years ago from USA and Asgardia, the First Space Nation

      If enough people effectively disengage and authorities pay attention in the schools and EEO and such, we can slow down the phenomenon at aleast.

      Thank you all for commenting - I might put this one into an ebook.

    • donnatru profile image


      9 years ago from Danville, IL

      Having been a target of bullying, at the workplace it is a huge pet peeve of mine. This article is the best I've ever read on the bullying subject. Being bullied in childhood or as an adult at the workplace is traumatic!

      It's cruel to traumatize anyone and worst of all to target a sesitive or insecure child. If at the workplace IGNORE IGNORANCE. It takes a strong willed individual to overcome some of the extreme kinds of bullying. The world can be an evil place. Take bullying for what it is bullying and then remove yourself from it and blank it from your thoughts! If the bullies affect you then they get what they want. Don't let that happen.

      Thank you for this great article and the research! This information will be helpful to many people.

    • arthurchappell profile image


      9 years ago from Manchester, England

      Terrific hub for anyone who thinks bullying only goes on at high school - important and very compregensive

    • suzetteboston profile image


      9 years ago

      Amazing work you always shed light on any issue you tackle. Great Article!

    • Darlene Sabella profile image

      Darlene Sabella 

      9 years ago from Hello, my name is Toast and Jam, I live in the forest with my dog named Sam ...

      Yes my dear this is excellent, though as a child I never experienced this and I never preformed any bad behavior towards is what people like to see. The Bad Girls Club is what the kids watch today and it should be banned off the air, that is only one small example. Rate up love & peace darski

    • Hello, hello, profile image

      Hello, hello, 

      9 years ago from London, UK

      At a certain age they all try their luck to get the better of other children or people and that is when you got to step in. My son was about three and took a piece of wood and hit a seven year old over the shinbone. That boy had tears in his eyes it hurt so much. I took the same wood and wacked my son on the shinbone, not as hard but hard enough for him to feel it. His eyes popped out with shock and his mouht stood open. He never done anything like that again.

      My nephew had the habit to catch you by the hair and hanging on to it. It hurt because at three and a half he wasn't a featherweight any more. He also was so crafty to hang where you couldn't reach him yourself. My mother crabbed hold of his arms till he let go and then pulled his hair. He was shocked adn complained bitterly to his parents for days. His parents told him now he knows what it feels like. He never done it again.

    • susannah42 profile image


      9 years ago from Florida

      Good Hub. This bullying is afecting many and need to be brought under control.

    • Earth Angel profile image

      Earth Angel 

      9 years ago

      Blessings to you Patty,

      GREAT Hub! I agree, disengaging, or what I call "not giving it legs" is a very effective way of ending attempted bullying.

      I entered kindergarden the day I turned 4 years old. As the youngest and smallest I suffered bullying by older bigger kids throughout my adolescence. At the time, walking away and ignoring it was my only choice. It turned out to be a good move.

      Later, it was my intelligence that provided the best protection.

      Because of my own experiences I have never stood by and let anyone else be bullied. I am quite proactive when I see it happening in stores, supermarkets and public places.

      So often parents seem to be 'brain-dead' when standing right next to their kids who are so obviously acting out in an inappropriate bullying fashion. Sometimes a gentle comment, and sometimes a 'knock it off' wakes them right up!

      I do think bullying is ingrained in our DNA. I also think really bad manners is ingrained in our culture.

      Thanks for your in-depth coverage of this important subject!

      Blessings always, EarthAngel

    • Patty Inglish, MS profile imageAUTHOR

      Patty Inglish MS 

      9 years ago from USA and Asgardia, the First Space Nation

      @GmaGoldie - I agree with you on the movie-rating system. One PG-13 film I critqued had 3 F-words in dialogue and 4 F-words in the opening credits, VERY loudly and clearly sung. The PR people wanted us to say there was only one F-word total. PG-13 rating allows 3, this was 7. The violence also made it R. It was still rated pg-13. Language and violence seem to make the money.

      @primpo - Thanks for asking! A Hubber asked it as a Hub Question and it's one of my topics of study. I became clearly aware of the problem when I was a senior in high school - my marching band's juniors and seniors were bullying freshmen band members over drinking fountain rights after 3.5 of hard marching practice. When I saw this in the hall, I spoke loudly that no one had dibs on a drinking fountain and stood there to make sure the line got water in the order they had already lined up.

      As a sophmore, I was in auditorium study hall where there was to be no talking. Two older Russian Club members, girls, pushed into the middle of the row where I was seated and told me to get up, go to the aisle and bow face-down to them on the floor. I ignored them, filed a formal complaint with the office (and so did ny parents) and quit the club. They thought I simply no-showed for club that afternoon. The next day. The teacher looked very embarrassed, having heard from the administration, and announced in morning class that the hazing ritul was banned. I took it a step further by never speaking to the girls again - not angrily, just disenaged. I learned years later that disengaging is a primary step in avoiding and stopping abuse.

    • primpo profile image


      9 years ago from Howell, New Jersey

      nice research on this hub.. what gave you the inspiration to write about it?

    • GmaGoldie profile image

      Kelly Kline Burnett 

      9 years ago from Madison, Wisconsin

      Excellent Hub! I must link back to you on my Anti Cyber Bullying Signs. This is such a critical topic. If this item is not address in a democracy, we run the risk of destroying our own freedom. The fight for freedom must be made by everyone - on the battle fields and at home.

      I find the R-rated movie rating system disappointing. I would like to see a subcategory such as RV for violence, RL for language. I know it is buried but the rating needs to be more transparent. Yes, the 4 years old know the bad words but the violence is a real concern.

      I as an adult actively choose not to see violent films - personal preference and a more in-depth rating system would provide a quicker reference when choosing a movie.

      A critical topic and very well done. Thank you!


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