Group Bullying (part one)

  1. The individual is a member of an identified out-group (enemy).
  2. The individual is not yet established as a member of the in-group (newcomer).
  3. The individual is a member of the in-group, but breaking some social norm of the group (law-breaker).

What Shape Has Only Two Sides?

Three important things about groups:

  1. The group boundary is defined by who is excluded.
  2. Membership defines who is worthy to fair treatment.
  3. Status within a group is a zero-sum game.

The Four Social Roles

  1. Defining boundaries and rules (Leaders & Look-outs)
  2. Defending boundaries and rules (Soldiers & Police)
  3. Deferring to boundaries and rules (Rank Members)
  4. Defying of boundaries and rules (Criminals or Enemies)

The Incentive to Be Mean

Defining boundaries & rules:

Defending boundaries & rules:

Deferring to group action:

Defying group rules or boundaries:

  1. Redefine group leadership (conduct a social coup)
  2. Redefine the group culture (foment cultural revolution)
  3. Redefine their own membership (exit the group)

What Can You Do?

  • Understand the primitive and simple structure, and the four social roles involved in group bullying. Understand EVERYONE in any group occupies one of those roles.
  • Notice that children in those roles are spontaneously recreating unspoken rules and roles that are formalized for adults. Help them develop awareness, and the ability to discuss these roles.
  • Notice the limitations they have in terms of genuine possibilities for shifting their roles. Acknowledge, discuss, and help strategize around the real dangers and consequences of challenging the group in the three paths above.
  • Notice the ways adults model social profiting by participating in informal four-role structures like the political poster above.
  • Ask yourself in a very frank way how you may be modeling this sort of social step-stool in your words or actions.
  • Explore ways to challenge and shift your own roles, and model aware and responsible behavior.
  • Ask yourself how you may learn to notice this behavior more in the world around you — and how you can point out the structure to your children in age-appropriate ways.
  • Through this process, help your children identify the structure, and the four roles, and the pathetic nature of trying to socially profit by attacking weak targets.
  • Most important of all, suggest, model, and facilitate adventurous and genuinely contributory pathways to self-esteem and durable social standing.




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John Bailey

John Bailey

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