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Can childhood bullying turn into domestic violence later in life?

There’s a lot of attention and rightly so, on bullying these days. No longer is teasing and name-calling being accepted as just “kids being kids.” The negative effects of bullying can often be devastating, leading to physical injuries, emotional difficulties like anxiety and depression, problems concentrating in school and social development issues, but it doesn’t stop there. We are becoming increasingly more aware of how so many bullies carry their aggressive behavior into adult relationships.

There is definitely a correlation between children who bully and adults who batter; however, that does not mean that all children who bully will become batterers or that every adult batterer was a bully. Bullying boils down to an issue of power and control, the exact same factors in which adult domestic violence are rooted. This can lead to not just physical violence as an adult, but emotional, verbal, financial or other types of abuse.

The Center for Disease Control reports that youth are more likely to be a bully if they are exposed to accepting attitudes about violence. Bullies may be experiencing violence at the home where their own power and control has been taken away, so they seek to regain it in a school setting where they mimic the same violent behavior they have seen.

There are also other causes for the need to gain power and control in someone’s life. For instance, a child who is struggling with grief and loss due to divorce or separation in the family may exhibit similar traits of bullying. The need for Power and Control are natural for all human beings. If we have not learned positive ways of exerting power in our life, we will seek it in destructive or unhealthy ways. The Power-Over model of control is one that seeks dominance at the cost or disrespect of others; this is the model used by bullies and batterers.

It is essential to support children and youth to learn alternative and healthy ways, such as: recognizing their Power Within, having the courage to stand up and maintain a voice when others seek Power Over, and developing a well-grounded understanding of healthy relationships. Project Woman provides Prevention Education programming in our local schools including “Bully Busters,” “All Ready!” and Safe Dates.

We are working to change the language of “power” and end bullying and battering! Join us! If you would like information about our Prevention Education program or to schedule training please call 937-328-5308 or email us at projectwoman@projectwomanohio.org

In Peace,

Laura Baxter, Executive Director, Project Woman Ohio