In the classic extended family where many adult relatives interact with
children, they fulfill the emotional needs of the children and serve as
positive role models. In an extended family where children’s emotional
needs for acceptance, status, appropriate attention, approval, and
validation are being repeatedly met, the children have little need to
compete with each other for the attention of adults. One of the theories
as to why children from modern nuclear families engage in bullying
behaviour is that they are competing for the attention, status, approval
and validation of significant adults and significant peers that children
of an earlier generation received from their extended families.
Former gang leaders have on occasion revealed some of their leadership
secrets. They see the gang as a surrogate family that attracts boys (and
girls) from mainly fatherless homes, or homes where the father is
physically present but emotionally absent. Gang members have a deep need
for status, acceptance, approval, recognition, affirmation and
validation from their peers and significant others. That need drives
them to participate in gang activities that may include inflicting harm
on others. In state schools, cliques of boys have been known to harass
other boys who attend the same school and who are outside of the
cliques, including boys who have a disability or medical condition or who
are suspected of homosexuality.
During the 1960s, a psychologist named Dr. Stanley Milgrim conducted a
series of experiments that involved subjects carrying out orders to
inflict harm on their peers, in the form of higher electrical shocks.
Several participants obeyed the authority figure to administer “lethal”
electrical shocks. A similar experiment of that period involved a group
of subjects in the role of “prison guards” who had been given authority
over peers. The experiment was curtailed due to the abusive behaviour of
the test group who were in positions of authority.
Reports from survivors of bullying and related suicide notes suggest
that some exclusive high school cliques may be enacting similar
behaviour. While clique members gain status among their peers by
participating in activities that may harm others, the need for
acceptance seems to override any sense of empathy or compassion for the
State social and welfare policies have undermined the traditional family
as well as the influence of religious institutions. During an earlier
time, religious institutions ran charities and social assistance
programs that were funded by voluntary donations. The spiritual and
emotional guidance that was once part of children’s lives is long gone,
replaced by programs in state schools that are devoid of any such
While state officials may claim to be addressing the school-bullying
problem through tougher rules, they may be reluctant to admit that the
bullying problem is the long-term result of successive state policies.
Until governments overcome their reluctance to repeal the numerous
regulations and laws that have directly and indirectly contributed to
the problem, parents may wish to consider the home-schooling option out
of concern for the safety of their children.