Nearly half of elementary school teachers admit to bullying

HOUSTON--Nearly half of elementary school teachers surveyed about bullying in schools, admitted to bullying students, according to a study in the May issue of The International Journal of Social Psychiatry.

The study surveyed 116 teachers from seven elementary schools. While more than 70 percent of teachers believed that bullying was isolated, an estimated 45 percent of teachers admitted to bullying a student themselves.

"It didn't surprise me that nearly half of teachers admitted to bullying, because they are aware it is a problem," says former teacher Stuart Twemlow, M.D., lead author of the study and director of the Peaceful Schools and Communities Project of the Child and Family Program at The Menninger Clinic. "Teachers need methods and help with disciplining children. The tragedy is that school districts rarely give teachers any help with discipline. They learn it by the seat of their pants."

Dr. Twemlow is professor of psychiatry of the Menninger Department of Psychiatry & Behavioral Sciences. Peter Fonagy, Ph.D., collaborated with him on the study. Dr. Fonagy directs the Menninger Child and Family Program and is the Freud Memorial Professor of Psychoanalysis and director of Clinical Health Psychology at University College London.

Drs. Twemlow and Fonagy surveyed teachers who taught kindergarten through fifth grade. They asked teachers about their job satisfaction, experience with bullying teachers, personal experience bullying students and being bullied by students and whether or not schools had a written procedure for handling problem teachers.

The authors found a strong correlation between teachers who were bullied in their past and teachers who bully students. The findings suggest that teachers, who were bullied while they were children, are more likely to be trapped in bully-victim relationships as adults and are more alert to the bullying of others around them.

"If your early experiences lead you to expect that people will not reason, but respond to force, then you are at risk of recreating this situation in your classroom," says Dr. Fonagy. "The climate you remember from your childhood may even make you feel safe because it is familiar and consistent with your expectations."

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Additional study authors include Frank C. Sacco, Ph.D., president of the Community Services Institute and adjunct professor at Western New England College, and John R. Brethour Jr., formerly with the statistical laboratory of The Menninger Clinic's Child and Family Program. Research was supported by Menninger's Child & Family Program and Baylor College of Medicine.

For more information on The Menninger Clinic's Child and Family Program, visit http://www.menningerclinic.com/research/child-program.htm.

For a full text copy of the article contact Anissa Orr, media relations specialist for The Menninger Clinic, phone: 713-275-5038, e-mail: aorr@menninger.edu.


Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 21 Feb 2009
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