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Bullies: Born or Created?

Updated on September 13, 2012
Health is Life
Health is Life | Source

The school yard bully is not a new phenomenon and cyber bullies have become an epidemic, but what makes a bully?

Lack of Empathy

Behavior is influenced by genetics, home environment, mental health, and personal experiences. But when it comes to bullies, many researchers agree the common factor is a severe deficit in empathy and compassion.

Empathy is the ability to understand and recognize the feelings of others. A stray dog, a homeless woman in dirty rags, or a friend that lost his job evokes a feeling of sadness in your heart. Without empathy, you cannot feel compassion. You take home the stray dog, or give the woman your old clothes, or help your friend find a job—this is compassion.

Most children show early signs of empathy in their behavior. By the age of two years old, they may comfort another toddler crying, or offer their favorite toy to a distressed individual. However, some children don’t show these traits as readily, and may have to be taught to feel and understand empathy.

Parents typically teach their children fairness, equality, and consideration. When a child hurts another, either by words or physically, a time-out or a restriction of privileges seems appropriate. A common response is “go in your room and think about what you did wrong.” But without an identification and guidance of those feelings, empathy may not be understood.

A more effective strategy is to help your child identify the negative feelings they have caused in the other child. How do you feel when someone hits you? Or, how do you feel when someone says mean things to you? As the child identifies sad, hurt, angry, express to your child; that’s how he/she is feeling right now. By labeling feelings, the child is enlightened with the very definition of empathy.

Showing your empathy to your children is a powerful teaching tool. Being patient with small children is easier said than done, but if you remain calm when they act out and respond to their behavior in a constructive manner, you can teach them how to handle difficult situations in a healthy manner.

Characteristics Common to Bullies

Research suggests bullies have several common circumstances:

· Parents practice physical means of discipline

· Parents may reject and be hostile towards the child

· Inconsistent parenting : over bearing mixed with permissive parenting

· Poor problem-solving skills

· Parents teach their children to solve stressful situations with violence or anger

· Bullies need to dominate others in order to feel secure.

Psychopath: Born This Way

Although no diagnostic criteria exist to define a child as a psychopath, there is a rare incidence of children born without a conscience. Psychiatrics and scientists debate whether a psychopath can be taught to develop a conscience or if it is a brain disorder that cannot be reversed. Known as the callous-unemotional personality, almost all of these children become psychopaths. They engage in pervasive bullying, fire setting, and are a danger to the community.

These children exhibit a lack of empathy as well as a lack of anxiety. When you do something wrong, you typically feel guilt and shame due to your conscience. Children with callous-unemotional personality do not experience any anxiety about the consequences of their actions.

The mystery of the mind still remains in modern times. The debate continues on nature vs. nurture and will for years to come. What insights we do gain can help us understand and shape the future of our world.


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    • eHealer profile image

      Deborah 5 years ago from Las Vegas

      Hi Rfordin and thanks for stopping by. It is very normal for girls to hold things inside, it seems boys act out more and in more physical ways. Your daughter may be an intellectual and analyze feelings and their consequences in a highly structured manner. She may like to talk about her empathy and ask questions rather than act on it or display it. Engaging her to discuss her feelings is a good thing, this may be the way she processes emotions. Not everyone reacts the same to emotions, some people are very stoic while others are easy to read. Thanks for your comments and you are a caring mom!

    • Rfordin profile image

      Rfordin 5 years ago from Florida

      Very interesting article here. I must admit I worry that my youngest does not exhibit empathy in a traditonal way. My oldest however will cry if someone mentions they killed a flea. While my youngest seems to harbor her feelings about it more on the inside. She does often seem curious about why so and so is sad, or why so and so killed the flea but as far as showing empathy she does so in a strange fashion. Then again she could just be like her mother and feel empathy on the inside while not outwardly projecting it. Again interesting read......


    • tsmog profile image

      Tim Mitchell 5 years ago from Escondido, CA

      I applaud you eHealer for attempting this subject. It is a difficult area to address. Even with the controversial discussions between antisocial personality disorder vs. psychopath vs sociopath at professional levels there is disparity.

      A personal view is the keyword (play on Google there) to define is 'wrong' regarding social behavior. The US may be the leaders with that paradigm since it has been a cultural blend for a few centuries now.

      Both difference and indifference are juggled seeking balance. An example is when taking a sociology class titled specifically social problems, I was the only male in the class and older too (about 48). The class had a lean in its curriculum toward social problems both historically and today for women.

      I learned that interrupting someone when they were talking is considered a bullying tactic or or an act of aggression. Culturally this is learned by the male more so than the female, especially when the conversation leans the wrong way.

      Generally in a social spectrum women will dance as a group moving from partner(s) to partner(s), whereas men tend to stand their ground shall we say. Yet, again that is a learned behavior and not exclusive to either gender. And, then you toss in patriarch vs. matriarch family structures a whole new story may be painted on that canvass of discovery.

      I'm wandering. About that time I got back into NHRA drag racing, yet I focused my attention on the Women of the NHRA and the sport of drag racing. I am waiting for them to be tuners and techs now.

      I think it would be exciting for not only a female driver in the pro classes to win, yet a coed team in the pit area too. Studying sociology for a bit and the history overall of drag racing one just may see that sport is a bell weather indicator for society at large breaking trends in diversity and the economy too with a wise eye.


    • jellygator profile image

      jellygator 5 years ago from USA

      It amazes me that we ignore the opportunity to study these kinds of things in children, and instead spend gajillions of $$ to create and run prisons, identify mental health issues of adults, and develop medical treatments while the potential to find usable answers gets ignored.

    • travel_man1971 profile image

      Ireno Alcala 5 years ago from Bicol, Philippines

      Bullying in school is rampant. My nieces suffer the same fate that happened to their mothers (who are my sisters). Although, they fight against the bullies (usually male classmates), they're still defeated because some of them are inflicting physical force to make them cry.

      I've been bullied during my elementary days (in Grade 1). I fought back and my tormentor even became one of my best friends.

      Meanwhile, online, I am always ready to block the person who has the intention to bully me. You can click the button 'BLOCK' and report it to the management of the social medium you're using (esp. Facebook and Twitter).

    • Rosyel Sawali profile image

      Rosyel Sawali 5 years ago from Manila, Philippines

      You've written such an interesting and timely Hub. Congratulations on your nomination to Hubnuggets this week! ^_^

    • ripplemaker profile image

      Michelle Simtoco 5 years ago from Cebu, Philippines

      Because I work in a preschool, there are parents who are concern about bullying. Yes, we may have to help a child by looking deeper to the cause for his action.

      Congratulations on your Hubnuggets nomination! This way please to read and vote Love and blessings.

    • eHealer profile image

      Deborah 5 years ago from Las Vegas

      Thanks Rajan for the vote up! I appreciate your comments, and yes, parents are the first line of defense. Thanks again.

    • rajan jolly profile image

      Rajan Singh Jolly 5 years ago from From Mumbai, presently in Jalandhar,INDIA.

      eHealer, good 'food for thought' article. I think bullies are insecure cowards who can only bully those who are weaker than themselves in whatever way. I agree with the characteristics of and circumstances under which, one becomes a bully. As parents, we need to inculcate appreciation of the others' feelings in our child to avoid them becoming one.

      Voted up, useful and interesting. Tweeted.

    • eHealer profile image

      Deborah 5 years ago from Las Vegas

      Thanks Sonny! I appreciate your comments.

    • sonnyhodgin profile image

      Sonny Hodgin 5 years ago from Indiana

      well done!

    • eHealer profile image

      Deborah 5 years ago from Las Vegas

      Thanks Dawn, it is really scary, maybe because it's a real fact of life. Thanks for reading.

    • DAWNEMARS profile image

      DAWNEMARS 5 years ago from The Edge of a Forest in Europe

      That is the problem. Yet it seems only to make this slightly scary subject so interesting.

    • eHealer profile image

      Deborah 5 years ago from Las Vegas

      Hey Dawn, I agree with you completely. Empathy is a component of the brain we don't understand yet. It has to be physical, but we can't see it on an MRI. Thanks for reading my hub and for the interesting comment.

    • DAWNEMARS profile image

      DAWNEMARS 5 years ago from The Edge of a Forest in Europe

      Interesting hub. Makes me woner how: "theory of mind" fits in to all this. Hard to understand others' emotional needs if you can't reason what they are thinking. There is also a condition called: "Aspergers" in which empathy is absent. Fascinating subject!

    • eHealer profile image

      Deborah 5 years ago from Las Vegas

      thanks for the comments. I really love your hub on Autism, very well down. thanks for following me, we have a lot in common with our topics and views. Looking forward to reading more of your hubs.

    • thewritingowl profile image

      Mary Kelly Godley 5 years ago from Ireland

      Its an interesting one. I am a big believer in a mixture of nature and nurture which makes the biggest impact varies I think. I like your views and I will follow you.

    • eHealer profile image

      Deborah 5 years ago from Las Vegas

      Thank you Derek, I try to get the information out there. Thanks for reading and voting for my hub. Deb

    • Derek Ober profile image

      Derek Ober 5 years ago from Florida

      I found this very interesting! I voted up for such!