How do I stop an indirect bully

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Interplay of direct and indirect aggression

In contrast, conflicts represented disputes with comparatively equal participants. A conflict is, for example, when kindergarten teachers quarreled over the shovel or a dispute broke out in the youth clique. “Conflicts are about opposing views or goals; usually one thing is in the foreground, ”says Gutzwiller-Helfenfinger. Arguing and conflict are an important part of social development because children learn through them to negotiate solutions and find compromises. "Bullying, however, does not offer any learning opportunities," says Gutzwiller-Helfenfinger, "but affects the healthy development of all those involved." Victims often suffer from anxiety, depressive moods or suicidality in the long term, researchers have found that perpetrators have an increased risk of later drug abuse and breaking the law. And: The risk of dropping out of school, depression or alcohol abuse increases even for uninvolved witnesses of the event.

The risk of depression, alcohol abuse, or dropping out of school increases even for innocent bullying witnesses.

When bullies hit their victims, swear at them or damage their belongings, they are talking about direct bullying: Here it becomes clear who is beating whom. Indirect bullying, where perpetrators avoid open confrontation, is more difficult to identify. Roll your eyes when the victim speaks up, "accidentally" gets in their way, excludes them from the group or spreads rumors - these are typical forms of indirect bullying. "These actions can be reinterpreted by perpetrators in their favor," says Gutzwiller-Helfenfinger. "If they are confronted, for example, they dismiss the bad rumors as a joke or present rough bumps as an oversight." Bullying is usually a combination of direct and indirect aggression: "Therefore, teachers should take seemingly harmless incidents seriously if they always affect the same child." Direct and indirect forms of bullying also appear on the Internet, which gave science a new research topic a good 15 years ago: cyberbullying.

How many children and adolescents are bullying? "Scientific data on this are not free of inconsistencies," warns Gutzwiller-Helfenfinger. "The reasons for this are, for example, different measuring instruments, respondents or definitions of bullying." Numbers should therefore be treated with caution. Based on the international data, it is assumed that around 20 to 30 percent of children and adolescents are involved in bullying, according to the researcher. One of the most highly regarded studies in this context is a study from 2005/2006 with over 200,000 young people from 44 countries. According to her, around 11 percent of those questioned appear as bullies and around 13 percent as victims, with boys (14 percent) being slightly more likely to be victims than girls (11 percent). "That is consistent with the findings from countless individual studies," says Gutzwiller-Helfenfinger. "Overall, it shows that there are more victims than perpetrators and that boys are more victims than girls."

In the beginning, the research focused primarily on the relationship between perpetrator and victim, but today we know that this view does not go far enough, says Gutzwiller-Helfenfinger: "Mobbing is a form of violence that normally arises in the group, and is sustained by them is covered up. " The problem always affects the whole group or class, because every child takes on his or her role within what is happening. Victims, perpetrators and fellow travelers who plagued the affected child or acted as reinforcers, for example by laughing at the attacks, are directly involved. The largest subgroup is that of those indirectly involved: Witnesses who watched passively or who ran away, as well as helpers who stood up for the victim. “The latter, however, is rare,” says Gutzwiller-Helfenfinger.

The silence of all those involved is typical: bullies keep their actions secret, victims fear rejection.

Bullying is hard to stop once it gets going. “Those involved are more and more trapped in their roles,” says Gutzwiller-Helfenfinger, “including the bullies. The feedback from fellow travelers makes them feel strong. But their peers also expect them to provide entertainment. " Meanwhile, the silent majority are often afraid of becoming a victim themselves, or are simply overwhelmed when faced with the question of how to solve the problem. “This creates a bullying-friendly atmosphere in a group or class over time,” says Gutzwiller-Helfenfinger, “and at some point it is considered normal for the victim to be beaten up. Then even the so-called uninvolved witnesses feel less concerned. "