Bullies and Their Victims: Social and Physical Aggression in Childhood and Adolescence

Intermediate—Fall

It can be the bane of our existence in childhood: the bully who simply will not leave us alone. Until fairly recently, the image that came to mind in both the popular imagination and the world of psychological study was that of a physically imposing and physically aggressive boy, someone who found the littlest, most defenseless boy to pick on. In recent years, however, that image has begun to change. Now, we realize that the ability to harm a person’s social relationships and social “standing”—usually through the manipulation of others—can be every bit as devastating to the victim. And in this new world of social aggression, girls’ expertise has come to the fore. In this course, we will study the nature of bullies and victims in both the physical and social sense and the possible long-term consequences of such bullying for both the perpetrator and the picked upon. We will explore recent evidence that bullying and victimization begin even in the preschool years, far earlier than previously thought; and we will examine some modern approaches used to break this vicious cycle, such as peer programs and interpersonal problem solving. Conference work may include field placement at the Early Childhood Center or other venues, as interactions with real children will be encouraged. Prerequisite: a prior course in psychology.