Aggression Through the Power of Bullying: Analytical Essay

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The social psychology topic of aggression is heavily influenced by our knowledge structures that dictate our decision making and behaviour in all aspects of our lives. Aggression is strongly correlated to bullying as risk factors of bullying include aggression towards other people. Power, gender and culture are also strongly correlated to bullying as they provide reasoning behind victimization and different types of bullying such as direct and indirect. Throughout this essay it will be argued that power is the underlying variable of bullying as it provides a framework that the power imbalance in a relationship between an aggressor and victim is the overall characteristic of bullying.

The Power of Bullying

Aggression is a part of everyone, however not everyone chooses to show it. Aggression can be portrayed through a variety of alternative ways and can also be influenced by certain characteristics and structures. Therefore, aggression is the social psychology topic at the foremost of this essay as it provides a framework for social factors, for example bullying. Aggression is best explained through the General Aggression model which provides a theory that human aggression is heavily influenced by our knowledge structures that affect our everyday life. These knowledge structures include our beliefs, attitudes and decisions, evidentially leading to the way we choose to behave (Allen, Anderson & Bushman, 2018). The General Aggression model also states that those people with personality factors such as low self-esteem, narcissism, aggressive self-image and abuse of power are more common to show aggression (Allen, Anderson & Bushman, 2018). The risk factor of aggression strongly correlate to the underlying factors of bullying as bullying is more often defined as a specific form of aggression (Crapanzo et al., 2011). The abuse of power through aggression is a strong characteristic of bullying as research says bullying is simply a systematic abuse of power (Olweus 1997). Therefore, it will be argued that due to aggression, the systematic abuse of power is the key variable of bullying.

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The other variables contributing to bullying are gender and culture. Although, both variables provide an effective framework as to why bullying may occur, the power behind bullying is the key variable as it supports aggression and the abuse of power.

To understand the concept and nature of bullying, it is critical to understand the foremost issue of bullying, which is power. Dan Olweus (1997), who is best known for the most researched and widely adopted bullying prevention program in the world, defined bullying as the systematic abuse of power in interpersonal relationships. This abuse of power is done through verbal and physical bullying which involves a power imbalance between the aggressor and victim. It embraces direct and indirect aggressive behaviour, for example, creating rumours, name calling and social exclusion (Smith, 1997). The distinguish between direct and indirect bullying is crucial to understand the relationship between implicit power and explicit power of bullying. Explicit power is achieved forcefully through the use of aggression; implicit power is achieved by having competencies such as being attractive and socially skilled, to be the person that people admire (Jimerson, Swearer & Espelage (2009). This distinction between explicit and implicit power is crucial to understanding the use of power through different techniques.

Furthermore, Fast & Chen (2008) support the theory that the aggression behind power imposes bullying through a study focusing on social power. Fast & Chen examined the idea that aggression among the powerful is often the result of a threatening ego resulting in bullying. They found that bullies were increasingly driven by aggression and self-perceived competence. In their findings, it was also stated that most bullies are generally disliked or rejected by their peers and rely on social power through aggression leading to a power imbalance and consequently bullying those people.

Vaillancourt, Hymel & McDougall supported the theory through a longitudinal project examining subtypes and social power of bullying with the help of 555 grade-6 Canadian students. The students participated by completing a self-report and peer assessment measurement which was the access to perceptions of bullying behaviour as a sample. The results were across the entire sample as expected with aggressive behaviour, popularity status and self-perceptions being highly present in the results. As expected, the participants indicated that bullies were more popular than not (Vaillancourt, Hymel & McDougall, 2008). In saying this, the power of bullying can be present in those people who are disliked or liked, and it all comes down the way in which they use this association to bully, through either direct or indirect functions. In the same study conducted by Vaiilancourt, Hymel & McDougal research also found that bullies were viewed by peers as more aggressive regarding physical and relational. Therefore, bullies most commonly use their social status to gain power over the victim through aggression and victimization. A study conducted by Hodson (2006) focused on workplace bullying, the abuse of power and powerlessness in the workplace. They found that the most common type of bullying in the workplace is due to insecure job environment through corporate power. Workplace bullies often attempt to socially isolate and exclude their victim. The victims are also usually the minority workers as they are seen as an ‘easy’ target because they already face a certain degree of social isolation from the majority groups.

This distribution of power between the bully and victim is the underlying most detrimental variable of bullying, as it is clear that the relationship between victim and bully is due to the imbalanced distribution of power. Throughout the chosen studies it has been evident that in schools and the workplace this is also the case with bullies using their social power to enforce aggression leading to victimization. To conclude, although the relationship between aggression and power through the internal and external functions of bullying is the underlying reason for victimization, there are still strongly correlated variables that support aggression leading to bullying.

Gender is said to be one of the strongest correlations of bullying. A long tradition of research says that males are more commonly involved in bullying than females and some studies also say males score higher than females in victims of bullying (Bryn et al., 2010). Similar to many studies Crapanzo et al., (2011) created a study and found that defenders are more likely girls as they show lover levels of aggression, prosocial behaviour and high empathy towards others. However, there are important gender differences when distinguishing between direct and indirect aggression. Research implies that direct aggression for example hitting shoving and verbal threats are much more typical for men. On the other hand, indirect aggression is shown more commonly through women who prefer to bullying indirectly through social exclusion and spreading rumours (Zapft et al., 2002). The theory that males are more aggressive, tends to be an ongoing occurrence, since male mammals, in most cases are the more dominant and aggressive gender (Bjorkqvist, 2018).

A study conducted by Lopez et al., (2010) determined whether there is a gender difference in bullying between men and women and whether there is a difference in direct and indirect bullying between genders. A total of 1,222 students met the requirements to be included in the final sample of the study. The study focused on direct and indirect victimization on male and females through asking the participants if they had experienced any types of bullying in the past 6 months. The average of students in the sample were female with the average age being 12.25. Given that there were more female than male in the study, the results were still congruent with the theory. The findings stated that males were predominantly involved in bullying twice as much that females. Also, males are more likely to experience direct bullying from other males with direct bullying rates twice those of indirect (Lopez et al., 2010). To conclude on the findings, males present with higher levels of aggression, leading them to predominantly be involved in bullying compared to females. Although this is clear, these chosen studies fail to address the reason for the underlying imbalance in relationships between the bully and the victim as well as the characteristics and motivation of these males leading to victimization.

Culture also plays a major part in the issue of bullying today through the hierarchy of culture for example, in school bullying. Within the United States educational system, there is an arrangement of ethnic and racial discrimination factors leading to victimization. In saying this, there is a good deal of bullying research with a focus on school’s multiple ethnic groups presented in recent years, recognizing the importance of different ethnic youth’s involvement in bullying (Pergeuro, 2019). Research says that this victimization is from unique factors leading to such violations include stereotypes, family socioeconomic status and academic levels (Pergeuro & Williams, 2013). Evain et al., (2013) investigated Latin and USA bullying in a cross-national difference in bullying and revealed that those youths that decide to bully present with characteristics such as aggression. The study found that Latin youth reported being victims and victimizing more than US youth. A follow up study conducted by Wright (2014) discussed the association between social status insecurity (SSI) and aggression among Latin adolescents and found that these adolescents scores high in SSI and aggression leading them to be the most common victim and victimizing culture.

To address these racial and ethnic educational disparities in bullying a study was conducted by Pergeuro and Williams (2013) focusing on four cultures: Asian American, Black/African American, Latino American and White American. This purpose was to study the effects that being in these cultures have on bullying. The study was conducted through 10, 440 public school students consisting of these chosen cultures. A student questionnaire asking questions reagarding whether they had been exposed to various forms of bullying victimization during the 2001-2002 academic year. Results showed that there were racial and ethnic differences in the likelihood of bullying. Asian American, Latino American and Black African American reported as having stereotypical economically disadvantaged backgrounds compared those of White backgrounds. Therefore, culture not only plays a part in bullying but it says that there is a ‘stereotypical view’ of children enrolled in schools today. One limitation of this study is that it does not include the motivation and intention of the bullies that are bullying the less fortunate. There is a need to further investigate the relationship between perpetrators who bully ethnic minority and those who adhere to these stereotypes in schools and their motives.

To conclude on all the findings, bullying can be presented in not only direct and indirect ways through the power of aggression, but in characteristics such as gender and culture bullying is also extremely present. Gender and culture are alternative and provided different information, but limitations between both were due to a lack of investigation between the underlying characteristics and motives. For example, gender studies could be improved with a focus on why males may bully other males, what relationship characteristics are present in males other than aggression, that leads to bullying? Culture could have been improved through addressing the relationship between many more cultures and why is it that the dominant culture enforce bullying onto those that come from a low socio economic background?

Although, gender and culture are not false variables of bullying, the relationship between bullying and power is the overall variable as it successfully provides a framework that incorporates aggression being a leading cause of the abuse of power. Dan Olweus (1993) defined bullying as the systematic abuse of power which effectively defines bullying as the interpersonal relationships between the aggressor and victim through intentionally harmful acts which involve a power imbalance. Therefore, this power imbalance is the leading cause of bullying conducted and successfully best explains the relationship between an aggressive person enforcing bullying onto someone with the misuse of their power.


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