Where are bullies made? The answer could be closer to home, according to an international study which found that teenagers on the receiving end of ridicule, put-downs and sarcastic remarks by their parents more likely to victimises their peers. The findings were recently published in the Journal of Youth and Adolescence.
Researchers from the US’s Florida Atlantic University (FAU), Canada’s Concordia University and Sweden’s Uppsala University, followed a group of 1,409 teens for three years, from when they were in year 7 (age 13) to year 9 (age15).
Teens subjected to derisive behavior by their parents, such as mockery or snide remarks, were found to be more likely to have dysregulated anger — a sign that they struggle with managing their emotions. Dysregulated anger increases the likelihood of teens projecting their negative feelings on to their peers by being verbally and physically hostile towards them. Additionally, these emotional challenges were also found to increase the risk of teens becoming “bully-victims” (bullies who are also being bullied).
Why does this matter?
Besides the fact that bullying is generally bad for everyone involved, past studies have shown that bully-victims are at most risk for poor mental health, suicidal thoughts and behavioural difficulties when compared to “pure victims” and “pure bullies”, as well as those uninvolved in bullying. Because of this, researchers think that looking at the family dynamics of bully-victims might be the key to limiting these potential outcomes or stopping them altogether.
Moreover, the results remained consistent even when taking into consideration differences in parenting behaviours like warmth, control and use of physical punishment – all of which have also been found to affect the way children deal with difficult emotions and circumstances. All of this suggests that derisive parental behaviour on its own is a risk factor that makes teenagers more likely to be unable to manage their anger well, and consequently, struggle with their peers.
Study co-author, Brett Larsen, PhD, a professor of psychology at FAU, described the study as “important” and said that it gives a “more complete understanding” of how parents’ belittlement and criticism of their teenage children could make them less able to have positive relationships with their peers.The study’s senior author, Concordia University’s Daniel J. Dickson, PhD, Department of psychology, agreed and said that parents should be clued up on the possible long-term effects of using mocking or sarcasm in conversations with their children, even if it seems harmless. He also added that parents should be reminded of the impact they have on their adolescent children’s emotions and should make sure that they don’t “feel ridiculed at home”.
So there you have it, words matter, especially the ones you use when speaking to your kids.
Written By : Tesneem Ayoub
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