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What Kind Of Parenting Turns Kids Into Targets For Bullying?

What Kind Of Parenting Turns Kids Into Targets For Bullying?
Sebastian Herrmann

School life can be pretty merciless. Kids have an astonishing repertoire of nasty things they inflict on other kids. But what factors play a role in which kids are the victims and which the perpetrators? Why do some wind up on the receiving end of the nastiness, and others become the ones meting it out?

Psychologists working with Germany's Dieter Wolke at the University of Warwick in Great Britain have analyzed the extent to which parenting styles influence kids’ behavior at school (Child Abuse & Neglect, online). The researchers evaluated 70 studies from recent years in which over 200,000 children had taken part. And according to the results, children with overprotective parents have a higher chance of being bullied.

School bullying is a global problem, the authors stress. According to a World Health Organization (WHO) study published in 2012, about one-third of all children fall victim to the aggressive behavior of their peers. Wolke says that can have long-term consequences for terrorized children that can persist into adulthood.

Children who are bullied often later develop body-image problems, and also have a higher risk as adults of suffering from depression, anxiety or other psychological problems.

The ability of children to get along with other kids their age at school without being bullied, or to defend themselves if they are bullied, is influenced by the way they are parented.

Don't get too cozy

According to the psychologists’ data, children with particularly strict parents, authoritarian parents, or parents who give them too much negative feedback show somewhat higher risk of being the victims of bullying.

The risk is similarly higher for the children of overprotective parents – a surprising result, Wolke says. But it would seem that children from a particularly cozy nest may lack the armor to deal with bullies, the psychologist says. Keeping children away from negative experiences is thus presumably a way to make them particularly vulnerable.

The data from the meta-analysis also reveals that if children are bullied at home by their siblings, the chances are higher that they will be bullied in school.

The kids least susceptible to chronic hectoring and physical bullying, according to Wolke, are those whose parents set clear behavioral rules that must be respected, but who also display emotional warmth and impart a sense of security.

Parents like this also let their kids work out conflicts with peers without immediately getting into the act, Wolke says. This enables children to figure out strategies and develop self-confidence that makes them less vulnerable to bullies.

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FOCUS: Russia-Ukraine War

War Of Attrition, Western Fatigue, U.S. Election: Clock Is Ticking On Ukraine's Fate

Russia is hoping that the West’s support for Ukraine will begin to falter. Kyiv knows this, and is therefore trying to obtain long-term aid agreements — which have the potential to determine their future. But the current Poland-Ukraine row is a troubling sign.

Photo of Ukrainian soldiers on a reconnaissance mission at an undisclosed location in Ukraine.

Ukrainian soldiers on a reconnaissance mission at an undisclosed location in Ukraine.

Piotr Andrusieczko


WARSAW — It's been four months since the Ukrainian Armed Forces mounted their counteroffensive in southeastern Ukraine. The fighting is extremely difficult, and Ukrainian soldiers must make their way through kilometers of mines and fortified lands occupied by Russia.

Few would argue that Ukrainian army’s effort would be more effective if they had modern planes, including the F-16 fighter jets they were promised after several months of negotiations (they will receive the first ones in 2024, at earliest). Ukraine is also seeking long-range missiles: whether a U.S. arsenal of ATACMS missiles, which have a range of 300 kilometers, or Germany's Taurus cruise missiles with a range of over 500 kilometers. For now Washington and Berlin have balked on delivery.

Stay up-to-date with the latest on the Russia-Ukraine war, with our exclusive international coverage.

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There was more bad news this week for Kyiv amid a dispute over grain exports with its neighbor and ally Poland, which announced that it wouldn't send new weapons systems to Ukraine, though it will continue to fulfill its existing deals.

But Kyiv has also been facing problems with arms that it has already been promised. In a recent interview with CNN, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said that it's now been months that many of the arms Ukraine has been promised have been in an “on-their-way” status.

The Western supplies of arms to Ukraine are not only key to helping their efforts in the counteroffensive. Russia, having a numerical advantage, is trying to wage a war of attrition: wearing down Ukraine until its army has no choice but to collapse. For Radosław Sikorski, a Polish member of the European Parliament, who took part in the recent Yalta European Strategy (YES) conference in Kyiv, said the West must remember what's at stake even more when the battle hardens.

“It’s paradoxical that the human willingness to help is strongest when the victim of aggression is successful, but as soon as they start to have problems, it falls," Sikorski said. "But it is exactly this logic that we must be opposed to. Now is exactly the moment to show our true character: that we are with Ukraine until the end, and not only when things are going well.”

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