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Teasing and Bullying

Continuum of aggressive behaviour

Wendy Craig and Yossi Harel note that bullying may be one step along a continuum of aggressive behaviour combining the use of power and aggression.

Coloroso views bullying and genocide as part of a continuum: “When institutional and situational factors combine with a murderous racial, ethnic, or religious ideology rooted in contempt for a group of people, then bullying is taken to its extreme.”


What can we do?

  • Go where the evidence leads us. Adopt an evidence-based approach. As well, focus on relationships and social contexts. The solution to bullying requires the efforts of many people working together. Pepler and Craig recommend we focus on both the children involved in bullying – and on the relationships and social contexts
  • Bullying is a relationship problem that requires relationship solutions.
  • When children are involved in bullying as aggressors, they experience regular lessons in the use of power and aggression. Children who are victimized become trapped in a disrespectful relationship. Children who are bystanders are also learning about the use of power and aggression in relationships.

Relationship solutions for bullying

Pepler and Craig avoid labelling children as “victims” or “bullies” but instead take a broader perspective. We must take into account children’s relationships within the family, peer group, school, and wider community. Children need consistent messages across these contexts. All children involved in bullying incidents must be included in bullying interventions.

  • What children need depends on their role. Children who bully need support in understanding the impact of their behaviours and the importance of relating positively to others. They need what are called “formative” consequences.
  • Children who are victimized require protection from bullying and support in developing social confidence and positive relationships.
  • Children who are bystanders need support in recognizing their behaviour is part of the problem.

Prevention of bullying involves building of healthy relationships

Protect and connect children who are bullied. Turn children who bully from negative into positive leaders. Change bystanders into heroes.

Practical strategies

Change group dynamics – stop bullying before it starts. Use “social architecture” to organize groups. Stop bullying in the moment.

The PALS (Playground Activity Leaders in Schools) program at the Peel District School Board creates a good social architecture and develops positive leadership skills. It teaches schoolyard games that all kids used to know, and encourages active participation of students who would otherwise play alone.

Of particular significance: Nothing is left to chance with regard to how the PALS program is implemented in a given school. In my years as an elementary school teacher, I saw many anti-bullying programs come and go. Sometimes all the teachers in a school go to workshops, each receives a big binder, and the program is never implemented (for whatever reason).

The PALS program – along with a program developed by staff at a school where I worked – has on the other hand been highly successful. The latter program is called the Seemore STARR program, STARR being an acronym for Safety, Teamwork, Attitude, Responsibility, and Respect.

World Health Organization
 survey (2001/2002)

This document can be located through a Google search for “WHO health behaviour school-aged children 2001”

Of the 13-year-olds who bullied others at least two or three times a month in the previous couple of months, Canada ranks 26th of 35 countries on measures of bullying.

Of the13-year-olds who were bullied two or three times or more in the previous couple of months, Canada ranks 27th of 35 countries on measures of victimization.

Internet resources

The following document is a primary resource for the overview, highlighted above, of Pepler and Craig’s research on bullying in Canadian schools: Binoculars on bullying: a new solution to protect and connect children . Other resources can be found at that link as well.

World Health Organization:
Health Behaviour in School-aged Children (HBSC) study: international report from the 2001/2002 survey. Full text version

PREVNet: Promoting Relationships and Eliminating Violence Network
Partnership involving Networks of Centres of Excellence – New Initiative program.
The goal of this organization is to raise awareness of bullying problems and promote healthy relationships.

Barbara Coloroso offers additional key resources on bullying. As with the TAB developed by Marilyn Langevin, her approach brings together so many groups – the children, the school, and the community. One or two people, on their own, can do little to address problems such as teasing and bullying. Some books by Coloroso:

  • The Bully, the Bullied, and the Bystander
  • Extraordinary Evil: A Brief History of Genocide


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