November 04, 2004
Initial Bullying In Late In Adolescence Causes Most Harm

Matthew Newman and colleagues at UT Austin found that bullying leaves more lasting effects if it is first encountered in late adolescence.

People who were bullied all revealed slightly higher levels of stress. But while those bullied earlier in life seemed to respond normally to provocation, people bullied for the first time late in puberty are more withdrawn and sensitive to violence.

There are also sex differences between those bullied for the first time during puberty, with females more likely to react aggressively when provoked and males are much more likely to turn to alcohol to escape bad situations.

The stage of neuroendocrine system development in late adolescence may predispose toward a more lasting change in response to stress.

Newman admits that the results may seem counterintuitive, as older children might be expected to cope better with being bullied. But he points out that previous studies in animals and humans have shown that the reaction to bullying becomes more pronounced as puberty progresses. He suggests that children who are bullied earlier in puberty may be better prepared to cope with the more stressful experience of later victimization and so suffer fewer consequences in adulthood.

What is this an argument for? Vaccination from a lifetime of avoidance of conflict by use of early puberty bullying. Yes, you heard me. Kids need to get bullied early and often so that their first experiences with bullying will not come in late puberty. They need to build up emotional defenses that can only come from early bullying.

This result is consistent with the idea that people who grow up in tough neighborhoods are tougher emotionally. But the comparison here is between people who are bullied early versus people who are first bulled in late adolescence. Neither article linked to above mentions reactions of a control group of adults who were never bullied. Surely such people exist. Some kids grow up in really rural areas with few peers to bully them and some grow up so big for their age that their peers are afraid to bully them. So do bully-free kids grow up to handle stress well? Or do they lash out or slink away when provoked?

There is also the genetic angle to consider. The New Zealand Longitudinal Dunedin Multidisciplinary Health and Development Study found that a variation in the gene monoamine oxidase-A (MAOA or MAO-A) strongly predisposes abused children to become violent and criminal. It is possible that early childhood abuse is such a different experience for children than bullying during adolescence that abuse a different response than early or late adolescent bullying. Children may move through a series of stages where violence has different effects on their longer term development.

That there are children who carry an MAO-A variant that predisposes to greater violence in response to abuse argues for a reduction in the total amount of abuse children receive. But it becomes possible to genetically test each child for genetic variations that impact how children response to various types of mistreatment and rough treatment we may even find that it is beneficial for some children to get some bullying done to them at some stages whereas other children may be at risk of a worse outcome regardless of when they are abused or bullied.

Share |      Randall Parker, 2004 November 04 02:50 PM  Brain Development

Brock said at November 4, 2004 6:29 PM:

I don't know about the rest of you, but being bullied sucked.

I bet with all of our advances in neuro-psych a way will be found to trigger the benefits more constructively. Maybe just coping with diappointment is all that's needed [just tossing a hypothesis on the table]. An education that teaches through trial & failure may produce equal or superior results, without the emotional baggage. I still harbor some anger from my being-bullied days, and I think I'd be better without it.

I was thinking though that maybe the instinct to bully others is a fitness-increasing species adaptation. Children who are bullied are emotionally tougher. The emotionally tough deal with set-backs better. Tribes with a larger percentage of hunters who emotionally recover from a bad day's hunt or natural disaster would survive and procrete more than a tribe more given to moping and "woe is me" attitudes. Hence bullying behavior makes the tribe as a whole more fit. It's a way to prepare children for the inevitable curve-balls life throughs at us.

Just another thought.

Invisible Mind said at November 4, 2004 8:24 PM:

But it is very important to know what kind of bully you are dealing with. Some bullying is more emotional, whereas
other types of bullying is more impersonal. A regular fight against high school bullies is certainly much less
serious than being emotionally bullied by close relatives.

Daveg said at November 5, 2004 7:14 AM:

This stimulates some thought on hazing, which is a kind of controlled bullying. I have always thought hazing must have a purpose since it is so prevelent in all male settings such as sports clubs, the military and fraternities. It probably has multiple purposes, actually, but one of them is to increase the mental toughness of the members of your "tribe" so as to improve its overall success (survival).

Obviously, too much hazing is not very productive, but if done is a highly controlled manner it probably makes sense. In fact, some military school sanction controlled hazing with "hell weeks" and other similar processes.


Lazy Bones said at November 5, 2004 5:32 PM:

I don't think bullying kids at an early age is going to solve any problems. Kids who encounter such trauma often become raging narcissists or antisocials later in life.

Swanson said at November 5, 2004 8:54 PM:

"often become raging narcissists or antisocials"

Oh yea? Cite source please.

SpakKadi said at November 6, 2004 9:29 AM:

Define bullying? When you measure bullying, is it just physical bullying, or do you include emotional bullying? If you include emotional bullying, do you just measure name calling or do you include things like shunning? Does getting shoved in a locker once in high school have a more damaging effect than eating lunch by yourself every day in fourth grade if each, as this study says, is an initial encounter with bullying? And what kind of home life do the kids that are bullied only late in childhood have? Shouldn't this effect how they react to such things as well? And, as you said, what about people who are never bullied?

Xice said at November 22, 2005 9:28 AM:

Honestly bullying did suck when your younger. Ya know all you really want to do is fit in and then bam you got an older kid in your face givin you crap. But then when your older and get bullied, for me it's kind of funny. Even know I still see little kids getting pick on and that really pisses me off. I have to go and kick the crap out of the kid who is doing the bullying. If you see that it would help to stop it immediately.

James Retta said at December 14, 2005 1:59 AM:

Not being able to fight back is the one and only problem with bullying. If you fight back you go to jail. If you fight back, the bully will target your wife or children or your cat or your personal property when you are away. If you call the police the will police believe the bully, then blame me. If your child is bullied then you must transfer to another school. If your child is nice and pretty, or is studious and gentle, they will probably be bullied at the new school. So then you move again. The school created the most efficient anti-bullying program of talking, of trying to make bullies feel sorry for the victims. Bullying then became worse because it became a challenge for bullies to beat the system. My family said I'm exaggerating besides I am I'm not Mr. Perfect Nice Guy anyway, the church said pray so that in the next life it will not happen. Now I go to the park with my daughter and look up at the sky to avoid looking at other people out of shear disgust with humanity. And my daughter is emotional disturbed because before she thought everybody liked her and always brings paper and colored pencils to the park because she thinks other children will like to play with her. We brought a paper airplane that we built, a small boy threw it on the ground and crushed it. My daughter showed a small girl how to draw but the mother thought my daughter was not allowing her daughter to draw so she told her daughter and her two boys to stop talking to my daughter. My daughter never recovered from being totally ignored. Adults bully, children bully, and the police laugh. To this day she cries and says people don't like her. If I tell people, I'm labeled a pussy, turkey, weakling, or simply laughed at. If I could fight back I would. The answer is quite simple; Eliminate interaction with people as much as possible. Move to a home that will eliminate the need for contact or interaction with neighbors or others upon ingress and egress. Take your child to and from school. Try your best to be a best friend to your daughter, and to your wife. Make your home isolated from local and international politics and outside troubles. Make your home the one place your family will find peace, respect, and the freedom to be whatever they want to be. If a family member is also a bully who is poisoning your home, then it is the parent’s obligation to tell that child “Leave! If you hate us, and you don’t like us, then leave, you are not my son (or daughter).” This home is for people who love each other and support each other!

bett said at November 1, 2006 4:40 PM:

why do people pick on smaller kids?

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