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Bullying; Genes, Gender, Generation

Meghan Williams


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I had the pleasure of listening to Dr. Kathleen Stassen Berger’s lecture on Bullying; genes, gender and generation. At first I was kind of confused on the topic. I wasn’t sure how bullying and genes were connected. As soon as she started talking, it all just clicked together. I became extremely curious and inquisitive. She said that bullying is defined; intended to be hurtful, repeated, and powerful; keyword being intended. This got me thinking about how people are compelled to want to hurt someone else. Why is this? What makes them want to? Is it genetic? Is it learned? Does it have to do with your environment? What creates bullies? More and more of these questions kept popping up in my head. I couldn’t wait to hear everything Dr. Berger had to say.

            In her lecture, she began with talking about bullying its self. It is effected by many variables, parents don’t notice if a child is a bully or victim, the child won’t say especially if they are a victim, the three different types of bullying; power of numbers, social, and physical, etc. We know quite a bit about bullying; however there is still a lot to be learned. She talked about studies from the UK in children daycares. In this study it shows that children are five times more aggressive at 24 mos., aka 2 yrs. This study makes the saying “The Terrible Twos” very literal. It also showed that out of all the aggressive acts performed; two thirds of them were instrumental, aggression over an object. We do know that at age two we might not know any better. At age 2 we are still in the preoperational stage of cognitive development. This means that we represent things with words and images, using intuitive rather than logical reasoning; and egocentrism which means it is all about ourselves (Myers pg 143). Perhaps this is why we are more aggressive, we don’t understand that we are hurting anyone else because we are so self centered; however, as we grow older we should know better. Bullying is actually a very common thing in school ages. All children in elementary schools either are bullies, victims, or neither. Dr. Berger, while giving her lecture, had everyone stand. Then she told everyone who didn’t remember any bullying in their school to sit; the whole room stayed standing. From this and many other studies, we can assume it happens in every school; it is highly common. Dr. Berger continued with talking about the four kinds of bullying. Physical, verbal, relational, and a newer type called cyber. Physical bullying is your typical hitting, spitting, pushing, etc. This type also has been found to decrease with age. Verbal bullying would consist of calling names; fat, stupid, ugly, etc. Relational bullying is actually the most hurtful. It consists of stopping the social interactions of the victim. It is devastating. As for the last type, Cyber, it is basically relational but using the internet, cell phones, and technology. This type actually increases with age, as does relational. Men and women are found to use different types of bullying. Mena usually use the physical type and mostly attack other males. Women use relational; spread rumors, backstab etc. This has been true through many generations and many different cultures. In fact, the male to female arrest ratio for murder is 10 to 1 in the USA (Myers pg 127). Even in domestic situations; such as spouse abuse. Men are more physical and women more verbal abuse, which can be just as harmful and even more memorable. We know there are gender differences but it is hard to know if it’s because of different chromosomes; xy vs. xx; or if it is learned socially. There is a big controversy over this issue. To what extent are genetic? What is learned? A far as bullying being passed through generations, there are only some links; not 100 percent guaranteed. There are more links to social life promoting bullying i.e. “Peer Pressure”. For instance the popular girl who is aggressive is also admired. This teaches us it is socially ok. There are many different variables bullying can be based on, however, it depends on our individual life experiences and influences. Dr. Berger ends her lecture with asking us what can change. We know bullying is painful. It sometimes is the root for murder and suicide. Bottom line, it is bad and we need to change it.

            I have learned so much from this lecture. She answered so many of my questions. I personally find this subject extremely interesting. In my opinion, we can never really know why some people are bullies. There are so many different variables to consider. I used to believe gender had the most influence to aggression. I’ve always believed boys to be more aggressive and I always picture a bully as male. After Dr. Berger’s lecture, I realized that little girls are probably even more so aggressive. Relational bullying is exceptionally harsher than the physical bullying. I also believe that genes don’t have too much effect. Obviously I’m sure there are some ties, but I know that just because a set of parents are aggressive, it doesn’t mean the child is automatically aggressive. If anything, I would say the influence/environment while growing up effects it quite a bit more. It is hard to say for sure what triggers bullying, but I do know that we can change it; we must change it.

            In conclusion, Dr. Berger gave an excellent lecture. I feel lucky to have been able to listen and learn from her. Not many people are aware of bullying, and I believe her spreading the knowledge of the issue is really exceptional. I know more people would be interested if they were educated about it; that was the case with me.

Works Cited

Myers, David G. Exploring Psychology. New York: Worth, 2008. Print.

Berger, Dr. Kathleen S. “Bullying; Genes, Gender, Generation.” SLCC Anniversary. Salt Lake Community College, West Jordan. 2008. Lecture.


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