Saturday, April 10, 2010

Brutal bullies: What makes kids cruel?

From MSNBC: Case of tormented teen raises disturbing questions

The last few months of 15-year-old Phoebe Prince's life were filled with unrelenting torment, according to reports by fellow students.

Classmates at the Irish immigrant's Massachusetts high school called Prince a "whore" and an "Irish slut," students said. They defaced her school photo with obscene drawings, sent her threatening text messages and whispered — or shouted — insults in school hallways.
On Jan. 14, witnesses say, she was taunted by a group of classmates in the library and hit with a can of Red Bull thrown from a moving car. That afternoon, Prince went home and hanged herself with a scarf.

Nine students have now been charged with harassment and other bullying-related crimes, spurring national debate about the role of the justice system and the culpability of the school administration. But Prince's case raises another, more elemental question: Why are kids so cruel?
Beginnings of bullying research
Research into bullying didn't start until the 1970s, when psychologist Dan Olweus began to study the phenomenon in Norwegian schoolchildren. In fact, much of the study was triggered by the suicides of several young victims of bullying, said René Veenstra, a sociologist at the University of Groningen in the Netherlands.


Since then, decades of research have shown that the power differential between bullies and victims is a crucial component of the interaction.

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