This is what Brigham Young University professors Clyde Robinson, David Nelson, and Craig Hart wanted people to understand from the results of the study that inspired the movie “Mean Girls.”  They concluded that much of children’s behavior does not depend on their own thoughts but on the way they see their parents and older siblings acting at home.

That helps explain the bewilderment, dismay, and anger some parents experience when they try to reason with a bully’s parents.  An appeal to a common good—respect for personal boundaries—isn’t sufficiently respected by coercive parents.  They don’t believe or acknowledge that trampling occurs.  To them, coercion is normal and natural, possibly even right.  And their children are following suit. 

A regular perception is that bullies have more testosterone in their bodies than others.  One study shows the opposite: they actually possess less than bystanders and victims.  Hormones aren’t required for the doling out of abuse.  A deflated sense of others and an inflated view of self is far more common.  Research shows that bullies possess a positive view of themselves even when their peers unanimously don’t More so, they actually believe their peers think highly of them as well.  Their self-deception would likely be met with pity by other parents if it weren’t for the behavior they unleash.  Bullies in many ways are a tragic study in self-delusion.

Though bullying peaks in the middle-school years, it often doesn’t end there.  A Rowan University Study found that elementary school bullies frequently persist throughout their high school and college years.  Not surprisingly, physical bullying is replaced with verbal bullying, since physically assaulting another adult is far more likely to results in real trouble with the law.

Other characteristics of bullies:

~They do not take rejection to heart or learn from it the way other kids do.

~They deny their maladjustment and often blame others for their problems.

~Boys are more prone to physically bully; girls tend to bully by attacking social status and ties—through damaging, manipulating, or controlling their relationships.

~Female bullies are more likely to become mothers prone toward maternal irritability, says psychiatrist Sue Bailey.  They’re more likely to become teenage mothers, enter into violent relationships, and suffer infection and injuries.

~A child who is a bully by age nine or ten—and possibly long before—is likely to remain a bully into adulthood.

~They have a strong desire to dominate.

~They lack empathy, the ability to fully grasp the feelings of others, and therefore come to deny the suffering of others.

~They are untroubled by anxiety, which can be a source of restraint when experienced in the right quantity.

~Up to the sixth grade, they are of average popularity, which then sharply declines with each passing year.  They tend to have two or three friends, usually other aggressive kids.

~By high school they are marginalized and not well-liked, which they don’t usually realize.

~They’re expert for their age in getting short-term payoffs, but lousy at long-term thinking and planning.

~Their verbal intelligence is lower than their peers.

~As they age they become increasingly selective with their targets.

~They’re less interested in the speed of surrender than in the pomp of pain and suffering.

We currently call what bullies do “antisocial.”  This is true, but it’s highly euphemistic.  If adults experienced what school victims endure, they wouldn’t call it antisocial—they’d label it criminal.  Those who’ve been bullied in the workplace know how it drains their soul.  For some absurd reason we collectively don’t think such draining takes place with children, or if it does, that it’s not as damaging.