A new study finds that forgiveness and reconciliation at home helps to prevent the recurrence of bullying among adolescents. Supportive, yet accountable parenting was more successful that negative reinforcement such as suspension and expulsion.

The report, published in the Journal of Social Issues, reviewed a survey of nearly two thousand Bengali youths and found that parental forgiveness and reconciliation promote adaptive shame management and reduce bullying behavior. Punitive measures such as expulsion may reinforce bullying tendencies by excluding the child from social support networks, and triggering inappropriate modes of shame management.

As illustrated by the authors, school bullies should be held accountable for their actions, but at the same time, they need to be re-integrated into social groups where they feel loved by their significant others. It is important to note that forgiveness and reconciliation ceremonies do not downplay the harm done by saying that we excuse the wrongdoer. Nor do they excuse the denial of shame/guilt over the wrongdoing, nor do they eliminate re-offending.

This study offers evidence-based knowledge on school bullying that can be useful to institutionalize restorative justice principles at school, and develop ways of responding to wrongdoings with a balanced focus on the bullies, victims, and the school community. Through using forgiveness and reconciliation, for example, the school authority can create an experience of belonging and accountability for both the bullies and the victims.

The idea that people are responsible for their own well-being as well as having responsibilities to help promote the well-being of others creates a culture where people are rewarded for self-regulating and checking themselves before they engage in bullying activities.

Source: Blackwell Publishing Ltd.