University of Texas in Arlington study: Bullying prevention programs may have negative effect

14 Oct

Dr. Dianne S. O’Connor lists the following causes of aggressive behavior in children:

• Genetic and/or temperamental influences.
• Insecure or disorganized attachment patterns.
• Ongoing and unrelieved stress.
• Lack of appropriate problem solving and coping strategies.
• Limited experience with role models (e.g. peers, family members, TV. & computer games) who value and provide examples of non-aggressive behaviors.
• Ineffective parenting style: for example, authoritarian, controlling, harsh or coercive parenting style; permissive, overindulgent parenting style; rejecting parenting style; psychological problems in the parent such as depression or alcoholism.
• Poor fit between parent and child: Ineffective parenting could be an effect rather than a cause of the child’s behavior. Children’s problem behaviors may affect parents’ moods and parenting behaviors.
• Family stress, disruption and conflict. http://www.solutionsforchildproblems.com/aggressive-behavior-children.html

There are certain family and social risk factors which should alert educators and social workers that an early intervention may be needed.

Physorg.Com reports about a University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill study which cites early neglect as a predictor of aggressive behavior in children.

Early child neglect may be as important as child abuse for predicting aggressive behavior, researchers say. Neglect accounts for nearly two-thirds of all child maltreatment cases reported in the United States each year, according to the Administration for Children and Families. http://phys.org/news126764603.html
According to Joan Arehart-Treichel’s article in Psychiatric News, aggression comes in four types. She writes about a study project conducted by He was Henri Parens, M.D., a professor of psychiatry at Jefferson Medical College and a training and supervising analyst at the Psychoanalytic Center of Philadelphia. “Parens and his colleagues not only met with 10 socioeconomically disadvantaged mothers and their 16 infants twice a week over seven years, but have been following up with the mothers and their offspring ever since.” According to Arehart –Treichel, the four types of aggression are
One was a nondestructive aggression, the kind the 5-month-oldgirl had demonstrated. It is children’s attempt to master themselvesand their environment. “This is a magnificent kind of aggression,”Parens said. It represents the kind that drives youngsters toexcel academically, win at sports, climb mountains, and do fantasticthings with their lives. It is inborn and essential for survivaland adaptation. It is the kind of aggression that parents shouldcultivate.
A second kind of aggression is the urge to obtain food. It toois inborn and essential for survival and adaptation.
A third kind of aggression is displeasure-related aggression(say, a temper tantrum or a rage reaction), and a fourth kindof aggression is pleasure-related aggression (for example, teasingand taunting). Neither is inborn; both are hostile aggression,and both are activated by emotional pain. In other words, hurtinga person’s feelings can generate hostile aggression. That istrue for all people. In contrast, people whose feelings arenot hurt will probably not engage in hostile aggression. http://phys.org/news126764603.html

According to the observations a good deal of the aggression behavior observed in the children in the study was related to how their parents treated them.

PBS has a good description of aggression in boys and what characteristics are normal and not necessarily cause for concern.

Why do boys become aggressive? Sometimes boys are aggressive because they are frustrated or because they want to win. Sometimes they are just angry and can’t find another way to express that feeling. And some may behave aggressively, but they’re not aggressive all the time.
An active boy is not necessarily an aggressive one. “We often see young boys playing out aggressive themes. It’s only a problem when it gets out of control,” comments Thompson.
Competition, power and success are the true stuff of boys’ play. Many young boys see things in competitive terms and play games like “I can make my marble roll faster than yours,” “my tower is taller than yours” and “I can run faster than you.” But these games of power and dominance are not necessarily aggressive unless they are intended to hurt.
Fantasy play is not aggressive. A common boy fantasy about killing bad guys and saving the world is just as normal as a common girl fantasy about tucking in animals and putting them to bed. “Most boys will pick up a pretzel and pretend to shoot with it,” comments teacher Jane Katch. “If a boy is playing a game about super heroes, you might see it as violent. But the way he sees it, he’s making the world safe from the bad guys. This is normal and doesn’t indicate that anything is wrong unless he repeatedly hurts or tries to dominate the friends he plays with. And sometimes an act that feels aggressive to one child was actually intended to be a playful action by the child who did it. When this happens in my class, we talk about it, so one child can understand that another child’s experience may be different than his own. This is the way empathy develops.”
Only a small percentage of boys’ behavior is truly aggressive. While “all boys have normal aggressive impulses which they learn to control, only a small percentage are overly aggressive and have chronic difficulty controlling those impulses,” says Michael Thompson, Ph.D. These are the boys who truly confuse fantasy with reality, and frequently hit, punch, and bully other kids. They have a lack of impulse control and cannot stop themselves from acting out. “They cannot contain their anger and have little control over their physical behavior and this is when intervention by parent or teacher is needed,” says Thompson. http://www.pbs.org/parents/raisingboys/aggression02.html

The key point is a lot of behavior, which is normal activity for most boys is not unacceptable aggression and should not trigger the use of medication for behavior which is within the normal range.

Rebecca Klein of Huffington Post reported in the article, Bullying Prevention Programs May Have Negative Impact: Study:

Released in September by the University of Texas in Arlington, the study found that unintended consequences may result from campaigns designed to educate students about the harms of physical and emotional harassment. According to researchers’ findings, bullying prevention programs in schools generally increase incidences of physical and emotional attacks among students by teaching kids about the ins and outs of bulling.
The study’s findings challenge commonly held beliefs about the benefits of bullying prevention programs.
“The schools with interventions say, ‘You shouldn’t do this,’ or ‘you shouldn’t do that.’ But through the programs, the students become highly exposed to what a bully is and they know what to do or say when questioned by parents or teachers,” lead study author Dr. Seokjin Jeong said in a statement released by the university.
Using data from an earlier national study that looked at the well-being of adolescents, researchers found that students in schools with anti-bullying programs are more likely to be victimized. Specifically, they found that male students were more likely to be victims of physical harassment, while girls were more likely to face emotional harassment.
“This study raises an alarm,” Jeong told CBS Dallas. “Usually people expect an anti-bullying program to have some impact — some positive impact.”
Instead, his study recommends that prevention efforts “move beyond individual risk factors and focus on systemic change within the schools.” His report also recommend that researchers “better identify the bully-victim dynamics in order to develop prevention strategies accordingly….”http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/10/10/bullying-prevention-programs-impact_n_4080328.html?utm_hp_ref=email_share

Citation:

Journal Article
A Multilevel Examination of Peer Victimization and Bullying Preventions in Schools
J Journal of Criminology
V 2013
A Jeong, Seokjin
A Lee, Byung Hyun
R 10.1155/2013/735397
D 2013
U http://dx.doi.org/10.1155/2013/735397
735397
P 10

Here is the press release from the University of Texas at Arlington:

NEWS CENTER
Youth more likely to be bullied at schools with anti-bullying programs, UT Arlington researcher finds
Anti-bullying initiatives have become standard at schools across the country, but a new UT Arlington study finds that students attending those schools may be more likely to be a victim of bullying than children at schools without such programs.
The findings run counter to the common perception that bullying prevention programs can help protect kids from repeated harassment or physical and emotional attacks.
“One possible reason for this is that the students who are victimizing their peers have learned the language from these anti-bullying campaigns and programs,” said Seokjin Jeong, an assistant professor of criminology and criminal justice at UT Arlington and lead author of the study, which was published in the Journal of Criminology.
“The schools with interventions say, ‘You shouldn’t do this,’ or ‘you shouldn’t do that.’ But through the programs, the students become highly exposed to what a bully is and they know what to do or say when questioned by parents or teachers,”Jeong said.
The study suggested that future direction should focus on more sophisticated strategies rather than just implementation of bullying prevention programs along with school security measures such as guards, bag and locker searches or metal detectors. Furthermore, given that bullying is a relationship problem, researchers need to better identify the bully-victim dynamics in order to develop prevention policies accordingly, Jeong said.
Communities across various race, ethnicity, religion and socio-economic classes can benefit from such important, relevant Department of Criminology and Criminal Justice research, said Beth Wright, dean of the UT Arlington College of Liberal Arts.
“This important discovery will result in improvements in health, in learning, and in relationships, with unlimited positive impact,” Wright said.
A growing body of research shows that students who are exposed to physical or emotional bullying experience a significantly increased risk of anxiety, depression, confusion, lowered self-esteem and suicide. In addition to school environmental factors, researchers wanted to know what individual-level factors played a key role in students who are bullied by peers in school.
For their study, Jeong and his co-author, Byung Hyun Lee, a doctoral student in criminology at Michigan State University, analyzed data from the Health Behavior in School-Aged Children 2005-2006 U.S. study. The HBSC study has been conducted every four years since 1985 and is sponsored by the World Health Organization. The sample consisted of 7,001 students, ages 12 to 18, from 195 different schools.
The data preceded the highly publicized, 2010 “It Gets Better” campaign founded by syndicated columnist and author Dan Savage and popularized by YouTube videos featuring anti-bullying testimonials from prominent advocates.
The UT Arlington team found that older students were less likely to be victims of bullying than younger students, with serious problems of bullying occurring among sixth-, seventh- and eighth-graders. The most pervasive bullying occurred at the high school level.
Boys were more likely than girls to be victims of physical bullying, but girls were more likely to be victims of emotional bullying. A lack of involvement and support from parents and teachers was likely to increase the risk of bullying victimization. These findings are all consistent with prior studies.
Notably, researchers found that race or ethnicity was not a factor in whether students were bullied.
The University of Texas at Arlington is a comprehensive research institution of more than 33,000 students and more than 2,200 faculty members in the heart of North Texas. It is the second largest institution in The University of Texas System. Visit http://www.uta.edu to learn more.
###
The University of Texas at Arlington is an Equal Opportunity and Affirmative Action employer.

The American Academy of Pediatricians has the following suggestions for dealing with aggressive behavior for most children

The best way to prevent aggressive behavior is to give your child a stable, secure home life with firm, loving discipline and full-time supervision during the toddler and preschool years. …

Self control

Your youngster has little natural self-control. He needs you to teach him not to kick, hit, or bite when he is angry, but instead to express his feelings through words. It’s important for him to learn the difference between real and imagined insults and between appropriately standing up for his rights and attacking out of anger.

Supervision

The best way to teach these lessons is to supervise your child carefully when he’s involved in disputes with his playmates. …

Your example
To avoid or minimize “high-risk” situations, teach your child ways to deal with his anger without resorting to aggressive behavior. Teach him to say “no” in a firm tone of voice, to turn his back, or to find compromises instead of fighting with his body. …

Discipline

If you must discipline him, do not feel guilty about it and certainly don’t apologize. If he senses your mixed feelings, he may convince himself that he was in the right all along and you are the “bad” one…

When to call the pediatrician

If your child seems to be unusually aggressive for longer than a few weeks, and you cannot cope with his behavior on your own, consult your pediatrician. Other warning signs include:
• Physical injury to himself or others (teeth marks, bruises, head injuries)
• Attacks on you or other adults
• Being sent home or barred from play by neighbors or school
• Your own fear for the safety of those around him….

The pediatrician or other mental health specialist will interview both you and your child and may observe your youngster in different situations (home, preschool, with adults and other children). A behavior management program will be outlined. Not all methods work on all children, so there will be a certain amount of trial and reassessment…http://www.healthychildren.org/english/ages-stages/toddler/pages/Aggressive-Behavior.aspx

Dr Joan Simeo Munson has some good suggestions about how to deal with aggressive behavior in young children http://www.empoweringparents.com/author_display.php?auth=Dr.-Joan-Simeo-Munson

According to Leo J. Bastiaens, MD and Ida K. Bastiaens in their article about youth aggression in the Psychiatric Times, http://www.psychiatrictimes.com/articles/youth-aggression-economic-impact-causes-prevention-and-treatment?verify=0 one of the treatment options is medication. For some children medication works and helps them to control their aggressive tendencies. Probably, more children are medicated than need to be, but the decision to use medication is highly individual and should be made in conjunction with health care providers. A second or even a third opinion may be necessary. NYU’s Child Study Center has an excellent Guide to Psychiatric Medicine for Children and Adolescents http://www.aboutourkids.org/articles/guide_psychiatric_medications_children_adolescents Mary E. Muscari, PhD, CPNP, APRN-BC,CFNS Professor, Director of Forensic Health/Nursing, University of Scranton, Scranton, Pennsylvania; Pediatric Nurse Practitioner, Psychological Clinical Specialist, Forensic Clinical Specialist, Lake Ariel, Pennsylvania writes at Medscape.Com about pharmacotherapy for adolescents

Before prescribing medication therapy for aggression, the clinician should ensure that the patient has a medical evaluation to rule out contraindications to treatment and to determine whether the patient’s aggressive symptoms might improve with appropriate medical care. Psychiatric evaluation is also necessary to determine whether psychosis, depression, anxiety, substance abuse, or other problems are present. Treatment of these conditions may also result in reduced symptoms of aggression. Nonpharmacologic measures should be instituted; however, when pharmacologic treatment is warranted, institute treatment with an antiaggression medication that best fits the patient’s symptom cluster. http://www.medscape.com/viewarticle/545247

Medication should not be a first resort, but is an acceptable option after a thorough evaluation of all treatment options has been made.

Aggressive behavior can be costly for the child and society if the child’s behavior is not modified. At least one study has found preventative intervention is effective

E. Michael Foster, Ph.D., University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and Damon Jones, Ph.D., Pennsylvania State University, in conjunction with the Conduct Problems Prevention Research Group, examined the cost effectiveness of the NIMH-funded Fast Track program, a 10-year intervention designed to reduce aggression among at-risk children….
Previous results showed that among children moderately at risk for conduct disorder, there were no significant differences in outcomes between the intervention group and the control group. However, among the high-risk group, fewer than half as many cases of conduct disorder were diagnosed in the intervention group as in the control group. These results were extended in the current paper to consider also the cost effectiveness of providing the early intervention. By weighing the costs of the intervention relative to the costs of crime and delinquency found among the study participants, the researchers concluded that this early prevention program was cost-effective in reducing conduct disorder and delinquency, but only for those who were very high-risk as young children. http://www.4therapy.com/news/also-news/targeted-preventive-interventions-most-aggressive-children-2747

As with many problems, the key is early diagnosis and intervention with appropriate treatment. Purposeful harm to another person is never acceptable.

Related:

Dr. Wilda Reviews: children’s book: ‘Bully Bean’
https://drwilda.com/2013/08/18/dr-wilda-reviews-childrens-book-bully-bean/

Kids need to tell teachers and schools when they are bullied
https://drwilda.com/2013/04/08/kids-need-to-tell-teachers-and-schools-when-they-are-bullied/

Duke University study: Bullying has life-long effects
https://drwilda.com/2013/08/20/duke-university-study-bullying-has-life-long-effects/

Massachusetts Aggression Center study: Cyberbullying and elementary school children
https://drwilda.com/2013/07/30/massachusetts-aggression-center-study-cuberbullying-and-elementary-school-children/

Where information leads to Hope. © Dr. Wilda.com

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