Hit Me Please!

Chronic bullying, apparently, is a lot like tangoing. It takes two to make it work. Only it's basically a three-step.

Bullies don't just pick on anybody, a team of psychologists finds. They selectively target those kids they first observe to be easy marks.

They pick on boys with a generally submissive behavioral style--kids who give up their position or place at the drop of a hat. They give in because they lack common social skills. But in doing so, they reinforce the bully's behavior by rewarding him.

That not only sets them up for further--and worse--abuse, it makes them unpopular. No one may like a bully, but no one likes a chronic victim, either.

David Schwartz, Ph.D., and colleagues sorted 155 unacquainted elementary school boys into play groups with five children each, then watched what happened.

From the start, kids who were later victimized rarely led their peers in any positive fashion, they less often initiated conversation or made attempts to persuade--or dissuade--their peers. They spent more time passively playing than interacting.

They even shrank from overtures to engage in rough-and-tumble play. In short, they were thoroughly non-assertive before they were targets of physical aggression.

Find a Therapist

Search for a mental health professional near you.

Then they withdrew even more. At the same time, they were picked on more, becoming less and less likable.

Chronic victimization is a three-step process, Schwartz and Co. report in Child Development (Vol. 64, No.6).

o First, the eventual victim submits to persuasion.

o Capitulation reinforces the victimizing behavior of peers, who then up the severity of coercive acts.

o The victim changes in response to victimization.

Unless victims learn social skills, they are at risk for behavior problems.

PHOTO: Parker Lewis being bullied by a bully.

Current Issue

Love & Lust

Who says marriage is where desire goes to die?