In a recently published UCLA study, the scientists have found that children who stand up to childhood bullies are more likely to develop stronger social and emotional skills. The study showed that children who stood up for themselves when being attacked were more respected by friends and teachers. The research does not promote such action or say that there isn’t damage from the bullying though.
As published in a UK Times article, the research was quantified as:
A LITTLE childhood bullying may be good for you. Researchers have found that if boys or girls are able to stand up for themselves, being attacked by enemies can help their development.
Studies have shown that children become more popular among, and respected by, teachers and fellow pupils if they repay hostility in kind. They remember such experiences more vividly than friendly episodes, helping them to develop healthy social and emotional skills.
The research shows that while bullying is not always character-building, there can be advantages to being shouted at, or ostracised on Facebook.
In a series of experiments, psychologists from the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA), measured the friendships and hostile relationships of 2,000 schoolchildren aged 11 and 12.
Researchers compared children who reciprocated a fellow pupil’s dislike with those who tried to ignore or placate their enemy. Those with the highest “antipathy” marks — repaying hostility with hostility — seemed the most mature.
Girls who gave as good as they got scored significantly higher on teachers’ ratings of social competence. They were more popular in class and often admired throughout the school.Boys who stood up for themselves were judged to be better behaved in the classroom than those who suffered in silence.
The researchers are not arguing that being tormented by bullies or being on hostile terms with a string of classmates is healthy.
Melissa Witkow, now at Willamette University in Oregon, who led the UCLA study, said: “The children who are not disliked by anybody are the most well-adjusted, not surprisingly.
“However, among kids who are disliked by a peer, our research suggests it may be [helpful] for some young adolescents to return that peer’s dislike than to either not be aware or to continue liking that peer.”
The experience gives children an early lesson that not everybody is going to like them in life and teaches them about conflict resolution.
What do you think? Should children be taught to “fight back” when confronted? What messages does that send to our children about how to respond to conflict? Is that how adults respond or should respond? This study leads me to more questions about how we should ultimately respond to such actions by bullies.