The Olweus Bullying Cycle

In all my research into bullying over recent years, I haven't come across a simpler way to grasp the complex dynamics involved in a bullying situation than the Olweus Bullying Cycle.

I will use my daughter's experience as 'victim' to give an example. I will refer to her as 'dd'. In dd's situation the bullying dynamics in an all girl group were like this:-

 A. Was a tween girl who started bullying using physical, verbal, psychological and emotional tactics to disempower dd. With my complaints to school, the girl got into most trouble for physical bullying and so she decided to influence another girl to carry this aspect out for her.

B. There was one main henchman, she was easily influenced and largely unaware of A's manipulations. She would carry out instructions from A. for example tripping my daughter up as if by accident or knocking into her, other times she would throw objects. Often B. would end up being disciplined for disruptive behaviour while A's behaviour went unnoticed.

C. The longer bullying continues the more supporters the Bully will be able to 'employ', more supporters means that the victim can be disempowered faster and the Bully feels they hold more power in the social group. In dd's case, more supporters came along over time, her confidence eroded slowly.

D. These are the bystanders who get some kind of enjoyment from watching the drama. Girls on the fringes of the 'in clique' are likely to play this role and in time as they become more accepted by those in A, B, and C roles, they may choose to make a move to position C themselves. In dd's case A. used charm and lies to change passive supporters into active ones.

E. The majority of dd's year group fell into this category. The common view held was 'as long as it isn't happening to me, I don't want to get involved'.

F. dd had two passive defenders, one who had moved away from the peer group and one who wanted to find status within the group. dd enjoyed the company of these two girls but was disappointed that they did not have the courage to speak out or stand by her.

G. Unfortunately for dd she had no in school defenders amongst her peers.

Situations like this happen more commonly amongst girls, but with the correct type of intervention by schools, this kind of behaviour could be nipped in the bud and not enabled to get out of control like it did in my daughter's situation, in her case lasting 18 months until I removed her from the school.

Even removing my own daughter would not have made much difference to the dynamics in that peer group, the queen bee simply chose a new target to project her jealousy and anger onto.

My next post will be using another Olweus image called 'Breaking the Cycle' which explains how with the right kind of interventions, positive change in the above negative dynamics are possible.

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