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Bullying happens for many reasons. The bully generally lacks empathy for his or her victims. Some children learn bullying in homes where there is poor parental supervision and where aggression is used to engender obedience. Feelings of inadequacy and jealousy are also among the causes of bullying. In some cases, bullying accompanies prejudicial attitudes toward the victim’s race, culture, social standing or sexual orientation.
Bullying is more common among individuals who lack compassion and empathy. While this may be due to an individual weakness, it is often a result of parental modeling wherein belittling others is considered appropriate behavior. Ideal breeding grounds for bullying behavior are family environments and other situations that model and encourage achieving goals at the expense of other people’s feelings.
One of the causes of bullying is poor parental supervision. In families where a child is allowed to do whatever he or she pleases, the child does not learn adequate self-control. The lack of consequences for bad behavior empowers the child to dominate others in the home and at school. In some cases, parents do not set clear limits for children because they themselves were abused as children and view disciplinary tactics as a form of abuse.
On the other hand, aggressive behavior on the part of parents is one of the major causes of bullying. When children observe their parents using aggression to gain control over their family members and neighbors, they adopt this behavior. In these cases, it is difficult for school personnel to address bullying in the school environment because parental cooperation is needed to change the child’s behavior.
Some individuals bully others out of jealousy or feelings of inadequacy. They might resent the attention that another person is receiving from the teacher or the boss for a particular achievement. Bullying in this case might include spreading rumors about the targeted individual, calling him or her names or belittling the achievement. These behaviors are usually intended to reduce the popularity of the victim and bolster the bully’s social standing.
The causes of bullying also include prejudicial attitudes toward individuals and groups. A homophobic individual might bully a gay classmate by mocking or physically harming him, for example. Likewise, a particular racial group might bully a group of a different racial background due to beliefs about the group’s inherent inferiority. In all cases, it is believed that bullying is not an inherited trait, but rather a set of behaviors that can be curbed through increasing self-awareness, developing compassion, and learning anger management and conflict resolution techniques.