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Not everyone’s a bully, here’s why aggression is not the same as bullying

Not all aggressive behaviours are meant to harm while bullying is a repetitive and behaviour characterised by a power imbalance between two parties, explains a new study on the relation between aggression and bullying.

sex and relationships Updated: Jul 07, 2018 11:01 IST
Indo Asian News Service
Sex,Relationship,Aggression
Bullying is characterised by a power imbalance between two parties, such as a child against a group or a bigger child against a smaller child. (Shutterstock)

Aggressive behaviour is often linked to bullying, but they are not the same thing. A new study done by the University of Buffalo found a vast difference between the two, and stressed on how spotting this is necessary for developing the right interventions. The findings show that aggressive behaviour is meant to hurt or harm, while bullying is a repetitive behaviour characterised by a power imbalance between two parties, such as a child against a group or a bigger child against a smaller child.

“It’s important to realise this distinction, in part because every aggressive behaviour we see is not bullying. Certainly aggressive behaviours are problematic and deserve our attention, but recognising the differences in the two behaviours means we can begin a discussion about whether we have to do something different with interventions related to general aggression,” said Jamie Ostrov, lead author and professor psychologist at the University at Buffalo.

Bullying can be physical, involving hitting, kicking, pinching or taking things away from someone. There is also relational bullying or social exclusion, where children might say, “You can’t be my friend anymore” or “You can’t come to my birthday party”. “Victimisation is receiving, aggression is displaying, and bullying adds the power imbalance and repetition,” Ostrov explained.

For the study, forthcoming in the Journal of Child and Family Studies, the team used teacher reports for one study with 85 students and a second study that combined teacher reports and behavioural observations by a research staff on 105 students. The results suggest that relational aggression, not relational bullying, was associated with increases in victimisation. “We have to keep this distinction in mind — it matters. It’s also validating our overall definition of bullying. There is something distinctive about bullying,” Ostrov added.

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First Published: Jul 07, 2018 10:48 IST