Causes of Bullying

There is never only just one reason why acts of intimidation or bullying occur. Bullying has to do with complex processes where the background and reasons can be found on multiple levels.

In order to prevent bullying, it’s important to understand the background and reasons why harassment and other acts of intimidation occur. Every case of bullying is unique and needs to be analyzed from different perspectives. In order to understand a situation of bullying, it’s important to have different perspectives: the individual’s, group’s, organization’s and society’s. In our experience, many schools get stuck in the individual’s perspective and solely look for causes and triggers found in the victim or the person victimizing. Our view is that we need to lift our gaze and also look at other things, such as the sense of safety in the group, the organization’s leadership or norms in society in order to get the full picture.

A Norm-Critical Approach

In order to understand the causes of harassment and other acts of intimidation, it’s important to have a norm-critical approach. In The Friends Report, many children share that the harassment they experience is linked to several different things, such as their hobbies, their taste in music, their style of clothing, or what sport they’re interested in. Often, the behavior stems from invisible and unwritten rules: norms that dictate which hobbies and interests girls and boys are expected to have, what clothes they’re expected to wear or what music they’re expected to listen to. Those who depart from the norm in some way risk being victimized.

Schools & Norms

These invisible rules that limit children and young people’s behavior and expression exist on multiple levels. For example, a school or class may have a norm that expects people to have a certain style of clothes or listen to a certain type of music, and this can differ significantly from the norm in another school. As a school, it is therefore extremely important to analyze what norms exist in your particular school. Then you will be able to reflect and critically examine these norms. In this way, you can work to broaden or remove the norms that limit people and cause injustice, instead working to establish norms that create an inclusive environment where everyone is free to be themselves.

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