Students With A Greater Sense Of Belonging Are Less Likely To Become Bullies

Bullies come in so many different shapes and forms these days.  They were so much easier to pick out whenever we were growing up and always try to navigate away from. Now, kids are bullies when you least expect it and in many different situations, do their bullying while behind a computer screen. As concerned parents, we're always trying to stay on top of these situations and make sure our kids are on either end. A new study just might have some insight for parents to make sure that their children aren't the ones labeled with "bully" at school.

The University of Missouri-Columbia published a study sharing some  advice that will help both parents and schools everywhere: they found that students who feel a greater sense of belonging with their peers, family and school community are less likely to become bullies. It might sound like common sense, but the finding go much deeper than the surface here.

According to the research, even though schools present themselves as no bully zones and great efforts from both children and teachers, one out of every three children still say that they experience bullying in school. One out of three is a pretty staggering number.

The sense of belonging that the research found to make the greatest impact on children who may have previously been called bullies is within their family and school community and their peers. They suggest that both parents and teachers alike should parents and teachers should consider ways to create a supportive and accepting environment both at home and at school.

The researchers, Christopher Slaten and Chad Rose, associate professors in the MU College of Education, along with Jonathan Ferguson, a graduate candidate in the counseling psychology program, came to these conclusions after analyzing survey responses from more than 900 middle school students from rural schools throughout the U.S. The survey that they ran covered things like how great their sense of belonging was among family, school community and peers as well as bullying behavior (ex. they were asked if they upset others for the fun of it or if they spread rumors).

Slaten said, "If you have children with varying interests, it might be beneficial to suggest the whole family get together to attend each other's events and activities, even if it doesn't please the whole crowd every time. By encouraging siblings to support each other, parents can help their children feel like their interests are accepted and that they fit within the family unit."

School should also follow suit by creating different clubs for kids with varying interests and so on.

"What we have found is that students' perceptions of how supportive and accepting their school environment is has the power to alter bullying behavior," Rose said. "This means that even acts of simple compassion and efforts to create an accepting and supportive space for students can help prevent bullying in schools. This is empowering news for teachers, students and their families."

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