Wondering what the recipe is for creating a bully? Well, I have some good news. We are beginning to have some answers thanks to a new study by Douglas Gentile and Brad Bushman published in the July issue of the Psychology of Popular Media Culture. This study identified six risk factors that when co-existing in the same individual are good predictors of that individual's risk of becoming a bully and is likely at some point to engage in aggressive behavior. When all six factors are present risk of aggression increases significantly. One or two risk factors are not enough to create a bully but when you get to three and past four risk factors the risk increases significantly. And, like I said above when you get to six risk factors it is fairly likely that that individual will engage in aggressive behavior.
The study by Gentile and Bushman looked at 430 children ages 7-11 in grades 3-5 from 5 Minnesota schools. For this study, children and their teachers were surveyed twice in a year-usually six months apart. Physical aggression was measured using self-reports, peer nominations, and teacher reports of actual violence.
Here are the combination of risk factors that predicted future aggression and bullying behavior:
1. A tendency toward hostility
2. low parental involvement
3. gender with boys being more likely to be physically aggressive
4. a history of physical victimization
5. a history of prior physical fights and
6. media violence exposure.
It's important to keep that media violence exposure alone is not enough to predict aggressive acts. It is only one piece of the puzzle. So, before you restrict your kids from all forms of media keep this study in mind. This study may help us identify kids who are at risk for aggression and allow us to help them before they become entrenched in this sort of behavior. This is invaluable information for parents and educators. I would like to see this study repeated with kids of all ages as we wrestle with this troubling issue.